South African cricket fans will have to be satisfied with just another franchise competition in lieu of the T20 extravaganza promised for the first half of the 2017 summer.
Cricket SA said in a statement on Monday that the regular T20 tournament would replace the inaugural edition of the T20 Global League (T20GL)‚ which was postponed when it emerged that it would cost the board $25m — or more than half its current cash reserves.
The T20GL had been billed as Cricket SA’s answer to the Indian Premier League and Australia’s Big Bash‚ high-profile events that star the world game’s top players and attract audiences beyond those who simply want to watch cricket.
In the place of the T20GL will be a tournament that will feature 24 fewer games than the original and is unlikely to attract many foreign stars.
The tournament is as yet without a headline sponsor.
On the upside‚ the competition will involve the full complement of SA’s national players‚ a rarity in these days of a cluttered international calendar.
Cricket SA’s acting CE‚ Thabang Moroe‚ was quoted in the release claiming that the tournament "will provide a mouth-watering appetiser before we move on to the main business of the summer with the international tours by India and Australia".
Moroe added: "We have witnessed what a hunger there is to see our Proteas in action during the Bangladesh tour, which has seen packed houses attending the [one-day series] at Kimberley‚ Paarl and East London."
Those matches have indeed attracted impressive crowds. But many of those spectators have been Bangladeshi supporters‚ possibly even the majority‚ and it is not often that the cricket-minded public of SA’s smaller centres gets the chance to see international fixtures.
South African franchise matches tend to attract paltry crowds whatever the format.
How keen will significantly greater numbers of fans be to go to the Wanderers or Newlands just because AB de Villiers or Kagiso Rabada is playing?
SuperSport will not complain about all that.
Now‚ at no additional cost‚ it will offer viewers a tournament beefed up by the presence of quality players who are rarely available at this level.
The competition is scheduled to be played from November 10 to December 16.