EXCLUSIVE: Host of English stars to cash in on South Africa T20 franchise… with Eoin Morgan, Jason Roy and Adil Rashid among 50 players up for grabs in new tournament
- Ex South Africa captain Graeme Smith is commissioner of the new SA20 league
- More than 50 English players will be involved in the new franchise
- Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali are among the league’s pre-signed English players
- Eoin Morgan, Jason Roy, Tymal Mills and Adil Rashid will be sold on Monday
Cricket will today take another huge step down the T20 franchise route when more than 50 English players are auctioned for a new tournament in South Africa — with Graeme Smith hoping it will grow to become second only on the global stage to the IPL.
Smith, who captained South Africa in a world-record 108 Tests and is commissioner of the new SA20 league, insisted the competition would provide the sport in his country with a financial lifeline.
And he warned that domestic leagues around the world were only going to get stronger, at a time when many fear for the future of the international game.
Graeme Smith is hoping the new SA20 league will become the second biggest in the world
Five of the competition’s 22 pre-signed players are English, with the likes of Jos Buttler and Liam Livingstone set to earn close to £450,000; Sam Curran, Reece Topley and Moeen Ali make up the quintet.
Four others — Eoin Morgan, Jason Roy, Tymal Mills and Adil Rashid — are in an eight-strong top tier of players up for sale in Cape Town to the six franchises, who are all bankrolled by companies that own teams in the IPL. Those four will each pick up at least £85,000.
In all, 318 cricketers of 13 nationalities — though none from India — hope to form part of the six 17-man squads.
Moeen Ali is among five English players who have been pre-signed to clubs in the SA20 league
‘It’s very important for a nation like South Africa to own something that, commercially, could be a big thing,’ Smith told Sportsmail. ‘Cricket in South Africa has lost a bit of its gravitas.
‘What world cricket doesn’t need is for South Africa to fall back. To keep that strength, there had to be something South African cricket had that they could grow. Hopefully it will benefit us like the IPL has benefited Indian cricket.’
Asked if he felt the SA20 — which will be held in January and February, clashing with Australia’s Big Bash League and another new T20 tournament in the UAE — could eclipse all rivals bar the IPL, he replied: ‘That is one of our beliefs, that we can position it that way.’
The cash-strapped South African board have been criticised for prioritising the tournament over the international game, with their ODI team sacrificing a three-match series in Australia to ensure the availability of the best talent for the SA20.
Eoin Morgan is among over 50 English players to be available in Monday’s auction stage
But Smith said attempts to reschedule the ODIs had not been reciprocated by Australia, and suggested it was unfair that his country regularly missed out on a prime chunk of their home summer, when the Australians regard their Boxing Day and New Year Tests in Melbourne and Sydney as immovable feasts.
The first edition of the SA20 is likely to coincide with England’s delayed three-match ODI series in South Africa early next year, though Smith said every effort would be made to avoid a direct clash.
But he added cricket’s administrators needed to work out how to allow the co-existence of T20 leagues and the international game, saying: ‘Does cricket become more like a football model, where it gets domestic-based, with a period for international cricket and events like World Cups?’
He also played down concerns about the influx of private capital, with the SA20 effectively becoming a satellite event owned by the IPL and broadcast to huge Indian audiences.
‘These (IPL) brands are getting stronger,’ he said. ‘I’ve been really impressed with their care for the game. They’re not coming to South Africa on a jolly. They’re here, they’re investing and they want the cricket to be successful.’
Adil Rashid, currently on England duty in Pakistan, is another name set to feature in the SA20