Johannesburg – Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith was on Tuesday named as the head of a new Twenty20 franchise tournament to be staged in the republic in January and February next year.
The announcement was made by Cricket South Africa (CSA) six days after it revealed it had withdrawn from a scheduled World Cup Super League one-day international series in Australia in January, which would have clashed with the new tournament.
CSA and South African television company SuperSport are the major shareholders in the league, which is intended to be a major money-spinner for the cash-strapped national body.
Reports from India claim the league will in effect be an offshoot of the Indian Premier League, with IPL owners having bought six franchises in South Africa.
The CSA statement on 41-year-old Smith’s appointment did not give any detail about ownership of the franchises but said one of Smith’s first tasks would be “to develop the brand and confirm the participating franchises for the cricket fest to take place annually in South Africa.”
Smith, who retired as a player in 2014, did not renew his contract as CSA director of cricket when it expired in March but it was widely speculated that he would be involved with the T20 project.
“I’m extremely honoured to be entrusted with leading this exciting new venture. I’m deeply committed to South African cricket and happy to serve the game as best I can,” Smith said.
“I’m excited by the opportunity to deliver the new league which I believe will be an extremely competitive product, one that can bring the much-needed investment into the game and provide new opportunities for players around the world and more importantly to our South African home-grown talent.”
A spokesperson for CSA said he could not confirm the reports out of India which named Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Lucknow Super Giants, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Capitals as buyers of South African franchises.
CSA said when it announced its withdrawal from the one-day series in Australia that it wanted its leading players to be available for the new league.
South Africa forfeited the Super League points available for the Australia series and as a consequence may be unable to qualify automatically for the 2023 Cricket World Cup.
“This new league promises to make a significant investment into both professional cricket and development in South Africa, along with a positive socio-economic and tourism injection into the country.” the CSA’s chief executive Pholetsi Moseki said.