(Photo: Getty Images)
By Richard Edwards
It was launched to considerable fanfare at the Bvlgari Hotel in London back in June, with the official owners of South Africa’s new global T20 League revealed to the waiting world.
Less than four months later and they must be wondering what they’ve bought into.
The league, which was due host its opening match next month, was postponed on Tuesday when it became clear that pressing ahead with plans after significant delays in negotiations surrounding broadcasting rights and sponsorship deals would be more disastrous than putting the start of the league back a further 12 months.
How much it will cost Cricket South Africa (CSA) is unclear, with the head of the South African Players Association calling for immediate clarification of where this leaves the players – both domestic and foreign – who had signed up to a league that had been hailed as the country’s equivalent to the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Big Bash.
One of those affected was Sam Billings, the Kent and England star, who was due to play for the Durban Qalandars with his one-day skipper Eoin Morgan. Billings was speaking to the Cricket Paper when the news arrived by text message from the league’s hierarchy.
“I had heard there were a few problems,” he says. He did well to conceal his disappointment at a decision that could cost him over £70,000.
Billings is unlikely to be kicking his heels for too long this winter, with a potential announcement over his involvement in the Big Bash expected soon. But having forsaken the Bangladesh Premier League for South Africa’s ambitious new project, it’s an indication of the fragility that exists in the brave new world of Twenty20 specialism.
For CSA, it presents an enormous headache at a time when the Global League was presented as the golden ticket for the sport’s ills in the country. The existing Ram Slam competition had struggled to attract big names players, mainly as a result of its scheduling and the almost continual weakness of the Rand.
Now the country’s cricket authorities face a potential hefty bill to compensate those players who had signed up to the venture in August’s draft. It’s also a blow to the existing global franchises who had viewed this an opportunity to spread their appeal across the cricket world.
The owners of the Kolkata Knight Riders, Delhi Daredevils and Lahore Qalandars were all involved after snapping up the three main South African franchises in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.
The postponement of the competition has also deprived audiences an opportunity to enjoy Kevin Pietersen performing on home soil. He was typically forthright on Twitter when the news broke.
“I feel so sorry for all the youngsters who were going to learn and earn out of the is competition. Disaster for SA sport,” wrote Pietersen on twitter.
“The dollar goes a long way in South Africa when converted. To think of the number of SA youngsters, players about to retire & coaches missing out this season is simply not good enough.”
Pietersen has already said he won’t be back playing in England for the T20 Blast next summer, preferring instead of focus on his conservation work.
For CSA in the coming weeks, preservation is the name of the game.