SA laying the red carpet for T20 Global League
By Robson Sharuko
HARARE – South African cricket is laying the red carpet for the arrival of some of the world’s super cricketers this summer in a Twenty20 bash – complete with multi-millionaire foreign owners and could help wash away the stench of corruption which stained the previous limited-overs show.
Chris Gayle, Kevin Pietersen, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Brendon McCullum and Lasith Malinga, part of a global cast of superstar cricketers who have helped turn the Indian Premier League into a success story over the years, are set for a dance in the South African sunshine in the inaugural T20 Global League.
The tournament, the first such single convergence of the world’s best cricketers on African soil in history, is set to get underway on November 4 and end on December 6. Of course, in today’s world, there will be competition for players from other countries, notably Bangladesh, whose own Premier League will get underway just two days before the South African T20 Global League begins.
Against that background, reports suggest the likes of Gayle and Pollard – the big-hitting West Indies stars who made a big name for themselves in T20 cricket around the world – could even play in Bangladesh.
But an announcement recently included them among the foreign players set to be part of the cast of stars to illuminate the eight-team T20 Global League which organisers also hope will help the game erase the stain of the corruption scandal that tainted the last tournament in South Africa.
Sponsors of the Ram Challenge announced in September last year they would not be renewing their sponsorship of the tournament after it ran into the turbulence triggered by corruption in the wake of revelations that the mob had targeted the tourney.
Former South African player Gulam Bodi was fingered as the chief culprit in the match-fixing scandal and banned for 20 years from the game while Tami Tsolekile and Lonwabo Tsotsobe were also sanctioned for their part in the scandal.
South African cricket is sensitive to match-fixing scandals after struggling, for years, to recover from the taint inflicted by the scandal involving former Proteas skipper Hansie Cronje that made headlines around the world.
The T20 Global League will feature eight teams – Benoni Zalmi, Bloemfontein City Blazers, Cape Town Knight Riders, Durban Qulanders, Joburg Giants, Nelson Mandela Bay Stars, Pretoria Mavericks and Stellenbosch Monarchs – and will be structured like the Indian Premier League.
Organisers said there has been huge interest in the tournament, including the ownership of the teams, with more than 150 interests from around the globe noted.
Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan, who owns the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL and the Trinbago Knight Riders in the Caribbean Premier League, has also invested in the T20 Global League and owns the Cape Town Knight Riders.
Indian giant company, the GMR Group, also own a franchise in the T20 Global League Javed Afrid, the Pakistani businessman who owns the Peshawar Zalmi, is the one who owns the Benoni Zalmi franchise in the South African T20 showcase.
The South African cricket authorities named AB de Villliers, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, Kagiso Rabada, Quinton de Kock, Imran Tahir, JP Duminy and David Miller as the home marquee players.
“For us to have our own league provides great opportunity to the local players and it’s just the spectacle of cricket we want,” Amla said on Twitter.
Pietersen, who was born in South Africa but played international cricket for England, has also been very supportive of the new adventure.
“I’m super excited. South Africa means a hell of a lot to me,’’ he said at the launch of the tournament.
“I lived there for 20 years and we go back there regularly. I was there last week and I’m going back in a couple weeks’ time.
“It’s exciting that I’ve still got another couple of years now to hopefully help with this franchise. It’s going to be fun. It’s an amazing country.
“If we can fill the stadiums I think that’s something that everyone wants to see. I’m sure that this tournament will fill the stadiums.
“It will be emotional to go back and play in South Africa because I always love playing there. It’ll be a fun six weeks.”
The organisers believe the tournament will be the real deal.
“The T20 Global League 2017 has been creating the hype all over the world. No matter where you live, you must be knowing about this due to its undeniable popularity,’’ they said on their official website.
“With time, it has become so famous that the CSA claims, there have been 150 owners showing interest. This includes owners from the IPL.
“Moreover, the fact that this is just another Grand League like IPL makes it even better. After all, everybody knows how entertaining the IPL always remains.’’
Cricket South Africa chief executive Haroon Logart said everything was going according to plan despite the pessimism expressed by some international media organisations.
“We had enough bidders initially, and we are turning back to that list. We desperately want South African ownership, but maybe they don’t quite share the vision, and understand the business model,” Lorgat said.
“There are losses to be absorbed in the first few years, and perhaps there is no appetite for that in the local market. As you can see from the foreign owners, they have definitely bought into it, and are very enthusiastic about this tournament.
“I have no doubt that we will have another owner (for Stellenbosch), but it may well be foreign-based owners again.
“Sponsors are coming forward without us approaching them. Once we announced the two IPL franchises and two PSL franchises owning teams in this competition, the level of interest was astonishing.’’