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It would appear that a difference of opinion between the players and the six SA20 franchises led to the non-purchase of Temba Bavuma and Andile Phehlukwayo at the players auction on Monday rather than a belief that they had no useful role to play in the tournament.    

If there is one aspect of players auctions which is consistent across all sports, and has certainly been prevalent in recent cricket versions of the compelling but unsavoury practice, it is that players who are perceived to have over-valued themselves are shunned. By every team.    

Modesty, it seems, is the most valued commodity in the most immodest of processes. Teams will happily bid, and pay, 20 times a player’s base price but they will not touch him, or her, if they price themselves above the market perception of their worth.    

Bavuma and fellow Protea, all-rounder Phehlukwayo, valued themselves at a base price R850,000 despite being urged, along with the majority of the nationally contracted players, to “start low” to avoid the embarrassment of them not being involved in the new tournament.    

As national captain and with 100 domestic T20 games worth of experience, and a domestic title as captain, it is inconceivable that not a single one of the six franchises could see value in his acquisition. And he is a batsman “on the up” — he is getting better. But when it came to his price, the franchises reverted to their own numbers. Or rather, his numbers.    

In those 100 games Bavuma averages a respectable 30.5 but his strike rate is 124.6. Franchise T20 openers need to be able to strike at 150 these days. Minimum. In his 25 T20 Internationals, the average drops to 26.7 and the strike rate to 120.6. Further, deeper analysis of his statistics suggest that batting him at the top of the order places the middle order under pressure and adversely affects their output.    

Phehlukwayo’s description as an all-rounder is legitimate in 50-over cricket and first-class level but his T20 numbers don’t back that up. He has played 107 domestic games and, while he has taken 92 wickets at an economy rate of 8.47, he averages just 12.37 with the bat in 72 innings. If the runs had been scored at a strike rate in excess of 150, the average would be irrelevant given that he bats in the lower order, but his strike rate is 119. In 21 T20I innings it is just 115.5.    

To guarantee the availability of all nationally contracted players for the SA20, Cricket SA guaranteed them $50,000 each — which is where the R850,000 reserve price came from. So Bavuma, Phehlukwayo, Test captain Dean Elgar and Keegan Petersen — the four nationally contracted players who weren’t sold at the auction — will enjoy an extremely lucrative month off when the tournament starts in January. Elgar and Petersen did, however, lower their reserve prices to the minimum R175,000 to increase their chances of being involved but still failed to attract a bid.    

Meanwhile news broke over the weekend that the SA20 had failed to attract a broadcaster in India. The story was almost certainly planted by one of the interested parties, along with the news that the UAE league (ILT20) had successfully sold its rights to Indian broadcaster Zee TV for $120m over 10 years.    

The truth, as ever in the cut-throat business of broadcast rights, was more nuanced. With six IPL franchise teams competing in the SA20 there can be no doubt about the appetite for the tournament in India — and there has been no shortage of interest shown.    

An attempt to create the impression that SA20 had over-valued the price of its rights is unlikely to cause the desired back-peddling. The ILT20 did, indeed, sell its rights to Zee TV but for $100m, not $120m — and they were the global rights, not just Indian. In other words, the ILT20 took a one-off payment and an immediate ceiling on its value. They cannot earn any extra over the next decade by selling regional rights.    

Viewing figures in India for the ILT20 may, initially, exceed figures for the SA20 because Indian audiences will recognise more players — each of the six franchises in the UAE contains 12 international players, after all — but history confirms that the greatest sporting competitions have been the most well-attended, however they may be tailored for a television audience. And that is where the SA20 hopes to create a competitive advantage over its rival in the desert.   

Live audiences don’t just “enhance” a competition’s popularity to a wider, global audience watching online or on television, they make it. It may not happen immediately, but in a year or two the SA20 board believe that cheering crowds at SuperSport Park, Newlands and the Wanderers will attract a greater global audience than matches played in mostly empty stands in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. That’s the plan.          

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