T20 collapse left SA cricket $25m in the red

By Robson Sharuko

Harare – What was billed as the biggest cricket festival in this part of the world for 14 years – with scores of international superstars expected to grace South Africa’s fields in the inaugural glitzy T20 Global League – is turning into a US$25 million mess after the inaugural edition collapsed without a ball being bowled just two weeks before the opening match.   

South African cricket had been laying the red carpet for the arrival of some of the world’s superstar cricketers this summer in a Twenty20 bash – complete with multi-millionaire foreign owners – which some of the game’s fans hoped would help wash away the stench of corruption, which stained the previous limited-overs show.   

With superstars like Chris Gayle, Kevin Pietersen, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Brendon McCullum and Lasith Malinga having been lined up among a cast of international superstar cricketers for a dance in the South African sunshine in the inaugural T20 Global League, the organisers are now counting the costs of postponements to the event. This coupled with the embarrassment triggered by the latest development.

Cricket South Africa paraded the tournament, which would have been the first such high-profile single convergence of the world’s best cricketers on African soil in history. The last event of such magnitude was the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup hosted in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Matches were set to start on November 4, with the curtain coming down on the month-long tournament on December 6. Organisers  faced persistent reports of problems plaguing the tourney, including a failure by the organisers to secure a suitable broadcast package and a title sponsor. This left Cricket South Africa with a bill running in excess of R340 million.

Cricket South Africa eventually announced that it would be scrapping this year’s start of the tournament and is working towards getting the tourney to start underway in November next year.

The body also announced that it will launch an inquiry into how their glitzy tournament ended up in such a mess, generating negative publicity for Cricket South Africa. Cricket South Africa was hoping the tournament would erase some of the stench of the last domestic Twenty20 tournament.

Sponsors of the Ram Challenge announced in September last year they would not be renewing their sponsorship of the tournament after being embroiled in controversies triggered by corruption and match-fixing revelations.

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.

The T20 Global League was set to 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 would be structured alongside the lines of the  Indian Premier League.

While organisers said there had been significant interest in the tournament, a bombshell announcing the tournament’s postponement was finally dropped. And the response from the global cricket community has been laced with both shock and a brutal reaction to the mess which the South African cricket authorities now find themselves in.

“The travails of South Africa’s Global T20 League show you just how small our game is outside its three biggest markets,’’ tweeted Harsha Bhogle, one of India’s leading cricket commentators.

The costs of running cricket events are huge and Zimbabwean authorities recently revealed that they will spend more than $750,000 just to host the Two Test series against New Zealand currently underway in Bulawayo.

South African leading cricket writer, Firdose Moonda, also took to Twitter to discuss the postponement of the T20 Global League and said everything now was a mess.

“They’re hopeful for kick off in a year but who knows. On the face of it, it’s a complete mess,’’ she said in response to a question on Twitter.

Given that the South African tournament was running concurrently with the Bangladesh Premier League, news that the Global T20 League had run into turbulence, has created a feast in the Asian country with the Dhaka Tribune newspaper mocking South Africa.

“Cricket South Africa’s troubled T20 Global League has been postponed to 2018 in an embarrassing climb-down for the organisation which launched the tournament amid great fanfare in London in June,’’ the newspaper said in a tweet.

It also said a number of international players who were set to play in South Africa were now likely to shift their focus and play in Bangladesh.

“Players from the T20 Global League who could be of interest to BPL owners include marquee names like AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy,’’ the newspaper said.

“Franchises would look at players like Jason Roy, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Smith, David Miller, Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Bravo and Alex Hales.’’

South African national team captain Faf du Plessis also took to Twitter to express his disappointment at the sudden turn of events.

“Was really looking forward to the Global League this year in South Africa. Disappointed that the tournament has been postponed,’’ he tweeted while former England star Kevin Pietersen, who was born in South Africa and was set for a return to the country of his birth, said it was a disaster for sport in South Africa.

“Confirmed – CSA have ‘postponed’ their Global T20 League,’’ he tweeted. “I feel so sorry for all the youngsters who were going to learn & earn out of this comp! DISASTER for SA sport!’’

Cricket South Africa acting chief executive, Thabang Moroe, said it was a decision they took after careful consideration.

“We have not come to this decision lightly,” he 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 re-assessed our strategy and believe that postponing the first edition of the T20 Global league to next year will serve us well.

“At this time, we also wish to thank all the players, sponsors, broadcast partners, SACA (South African Cricketers Association) and FICA (Federation of International Cricketers) who have committed to the                                               project.

“We appreciate the continued support of the individuals and organisations who have believed in this tournament.’’

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