The inaugural T20 Global League is dead in the water‚ Cricket SA has confirmed.
That means the major cricket ovals around the country could be deserted for the first half of the summer.
The South African Cricketers’ Association has called for players to be compensated and for the saga to be investigated.
Kevin Pietersen‚ who was to have been the Nelson Mandela Bay Stars’ marquee player‚ labelled the move a "disaster for SA sport".
Cricket SA’s board held an emergency teleconference on Tuesday and decided to put the tournament‚ which was scheduled to have started on November 3‚ on ice for a year.
On Friday, Cricket SA’s acting CE Thabang Moroe said the T20 Global League was set to lose $25m — more than half the board’s cash reserves. Even so‚ he promised: "We will start on November 3."
But in a news media release on Tuesday‚ Moroe said: "Having discussed it with all our stakeholders, including the franchise owners, we believe that the interest of the league should be our first priority.
"We have reassessed our strategy and believe that postponing the first edition of the T20 Global League to next year will serve us well. We will regroup and come back stronger and better."
Moroe‚ who is also Cricket SA’s vice-president‚ was installed after CE Haroon Lorgat and the association parted ways on September 28.
Cricket SA has denied that Lorgat’s handling of the establishment of the Global League was the sole reason for parting ways with him‚ but the fact that neither a broadcast deal nor sponsors were announced would have further damaged his relationship with the board.
A T20 tournament of the kind that has swept the game since the Indian Premier League was first played in 2008 would not exist without a broadcaster and sponsors. Matters came to a head with franchise owners unconvinced at Cricket SA’s ability to put the tournament together in a few weeks without those key elements.
"Having discussed it with Mr Moroe and [Cricket SA president] Mr [Chris] Nenzani‚ we have arrived at a unanimous decision to defer the inaugural edition to next year‚" the release quoted a minority owner of the Pretoria Mavericks‚ Osman Osman‚ as saying. "We believe it is in the best interest of the tournament to do so."
Lorgat’s departure from Cricket SA is central to the calamity. At least some of three Indian owners among the eight franchises are known to have been disturbed by the way he went about his business regarding the T20 Global League. High among their concerns was what was considered a worrying secrecy‚ which extended to Cricket SA chief financial officer Naasei Appiah being excluded from important negotiations.
But Lorgat‚ a former International Cricket Council CE‚ was the only current Cricket SA administrator the owners saw as capable of pulling off a tournament of the magnitude he promised. Now that Lorgat has gone the event has gone with him — at least for a year‚ which should be enough time for a new Cricket SA CE to be appointed and settle in.
The postponement of the T20 Global League will embarrass Cricket SA‚ but it will also be relieved that it can stop hurtling towards a tournament that was likely to have fallen short of what was advertised.
For Cricket SA’s next trick it will need to find a way to plug the gaping hole in its calendar.
November 3 to December 16‚ the scheduled date for the Global League final‚ is prime time for cricket. And everybody from broadcaster SuperSport and SA’s stadium managers to the country’s cricket-minded public are going to demand content.
Cricket SA could also find itself fighting on another front‚ with the players’ union up in arms at the postponement.
"We’re unsure of exactly what a postponement means other than the fact that it’s clear the league will not take place this year‚" South African Cricketers’ Association CE Tony Irish said. "We will be seeking clarity from Cricket SA on the further implications.
"This has a very significant impact on a large number of local and overseas players‚ all of whom have signed contracts to play in the league. Some players turned down other opportunities in order to commit themselves to these contracts.
"We will be looking at all implications of this for players‚ including what compensation should be paid to them.
"I think it will be necessary for Cricket SA to appoint its own independent review into what has actually transpired here as there are significant implications across South African cricket," Irish said.