Cricket Has Got the Energy Back

The commissioner of SA20, Graeme Smith, explains why the league selected six IPL franchises and claims there has long been a connection between Indian cricket and South African cricket. He also says he has no issues with the term “mini-IPL” being used to describe the league. He made it clear that the league’s window won’t alter so that the FTP can be safeguarded, but he also made a suggestion that the league’s wild card mechanism might not be in place the next year. a few quotes from a conversation

Why has SA20 been so successful?

Excellent query. Undoubtedly a challenging one to identify. I believe it is due to a variety of interrelated factors. One of SA20’s goals is to create something that would be successful and appeal to South African fans. For a very long period, South Africa experienced a lot of negativity. We spoke extensively about how to do that, how to alter the narrative, how to revive cricket in South Africa, and how to win back the supporters. Many of these choices—relating to marketing, tickets, and pricing—were decided after public consultation. That was the major objective. We had plans in place once it started to gather up speed. The fan experience has been fantastic, in my opinion. The cricket we produce as a byproduct is of high quality. People are talking about new South African talent. The energy was produced as the ball began to move.

Are you confident it will rub into South African cricket?

So, I hope. It’s incredible how many people have come up to me and told me they watched the opening ODI against England and saw us defeat them so convincingly for the first time in years. Cricket has regained its vigor, which is what we intended. It goes without saying that we want the Proteas players to succeed. The purpose of this is to strengthen and help players who can perform for South Africa on an international level. It won’t occur overnight, as we are aware.

The general impression of the SA20 is that it is an extension of the IPL.

That is not anything that bothers us. That is not a problem for me. We were lucky to be able to draw the teams we desired. Six of the most seasoned franchises in the globe have joined our team, and they have a combined 15–16 years of team-building expertise. It’s good that they intended to use SA20 to increase their global brand recognition. Overall, everyone has profited from it. These are well-known companies that have admirers all throughout the world, including in South Africa and India. For many years, South African cricket has had a connection to Indian cricket. The local fans’ incredible fervor for their clubs has been another remarkable development. We anticipated that it would take a long time because it is city-based and because the fans from PE, Durban, and Cape Town are all physically and emotionally present at the stadium. But it happened so quickly.

Was it difficult to find a few South African investors?

The idea of having six IPL owners was not in our plans. We spoke with about 30 people, 30 businesses, and 30 other entities because we wanted to draw in quality applicants. Deloitte was then given the task of performing the due diligence. The top six teams were those that you see now. It was ultimately a no-brainer.

But how do you explain the business model? There is a perception that there would be losses of about $5-6 million for each franchise every year.

They recognize that it is a journey, in my opinion. We are aware of the goods we hope to provide for them. In Year One of the IPL, they too lost money. We have a really robust business model, so eventually, they will. They are also excellent businesspeople within themselves. I feel very at ease with where we are right now. There is enthusiasm for the league and a change in perception of the neighborhood’s businesses and sponsorship market. That is what our intention was.

Are you comfortable with the clash of your windows with other leagues?

Players in both leagues make money. Players enjoy their experience at this event. If you are a top player, it is a nice one. Look, you would like not to disagree with anyone in a perfect world. Unfortunately, the truth is different. We do FTPs, Boxing Day tests, and New Year tests. Our window will continue to be this.

You have seen turmoil in South African cricket due to Kolpak. You are seeing players preferring early retirement or shunning national cricket contracts, Trent Boult for instance. In such a backdrop, how do you explain your policy of Wild Card?

The Wild Card might not be available to us every year, in my opinion. The policy for the following year is still unknown. Our player regulations for the upcoming season have not yet been written. Prior to the SA20 sale, neither the World Cup nor the South African domestic season had begun. We thus identified a few elements that we believed would present potential for fresh, young performers. Dhananjaya de Silva and Jofra Archer were the two foreign players we acquired under the Wild Card program. You are bringing up the larger problem of international cricket.

But you are not just a South African administrator, are you?

We do. We choose Wild Card for cricket-related reasons. We wished to provide young cricket heroes with possibilities. When we were done, the IPL auction had not yet taken place. We were unsure of who would be chosen. There were therefore numerous contributing elements. Our current challenge is to have our player regulations in place by the second year.

How could you have allowed Temba Bavuma to be unsold? He is your national captain like you were once. Could you not have avoided that embarrassment?

Here, caution was required. It is not part of our role as a league to become involved in certain matters. The teams make the selections. Without a doubt, we wished Temba had been selected. We are happy that he played well and is doing so right now (for Sunrisers Eastern Cape). With his performances, he dazzled everyone, and he was rewarded. We needed to create a boundary between when to intervene and when not to. The league’s integrity must be our top priority.

Finally, why is India so important for South African cricket?

For a variety of factors. the following: the fan base, passion for cricket, attention that comes with India, and the advertisements. The fact that so many companies and television networks in India (the league is televised on Sports 18 and Jio Cinema) adore cricket makes it the nation’s backbone, much like how Europe supports football. We have a lot of luck with the subcontinent because cricket there has been really lucky for us.