South Africa’s marquee players have given their blessing to the CSA’s new T20 league – even if it puts the team’s direct qualification for next year’s ODI World Cup at risk.
The players appreciate the importance of the initiative to secure the sustainability of cricket in the country and do not think that a planned simultaneous tournament in the UAE will lure top names from South Africa.
“There is 100% buy-in [for the South African league], not just financially – the guys will make some extra money – but also from the perspective of the South African cricket landscape,” Rasi van der Dusen told Cricbuzz. “We understand the global situation and the country’s board and the need for a league to make the game financially viable.”
CSA’s league will be played in January, and they want top South African players involved to lend the project credibility and prestige in a calendar that is fast becoming cluttered with similar tournaments. “Everyone is excited for the league and the role we play in making it successful; everyone is on board with it,” van der Dusen said.
But it forced South Africa to withdraw from an ODI series in Australia, which was scheduled to clash with the league – and which carried World Cup Super League points. South Africa is currently ranked 11th. Only the top eight will earn berths in the 10-team 2023 World Cup in India. The remaining two spots will be decided at a qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe in June and July next year. As things stand, South Africa will have to follow that path to India.
“If it means we have to go and qualify for the World Cup, looking at the greater good of the game over the next 15 to 20 years, it’s a small price to pay,” van der Dusen said. “This game gave us all a lot. It’s unfortunate that we have to lose those points, especially against Australia. But if we have to go to the gym [Zimbabwe], that’s what we’ll do.”
CSA’s league is being consolidated in the rival United Arab Emirates, where the organizers appear ready to pay players more than any tournament except the IPL. Could van der Dusen’s compatriots prefer to go to the Persian Gulf instead? “The MSL has shown us what the standard of cricket is in South Africa, and as a destination the boys will probably want to stay at home. I doubt we will see the boys go to the UAE league.”
Apart from all this, T20 tournaments provide an opportunity for struggling players to regain their form. Aiden Markram, for example, went into this year’s IPL having reached 50 for South Africa only twice in 20 innings across the format. In 14 trips to the crease for Sunrisers Hyderabad, he scored 381 runs – including three half-centuries – at an average of 47.63 and a strike rate of 139.05. Now back in national colours, he has scored two fifties in four white-ball innings on the current England tour.
“Confidence is a huge thing in this game, especially as a batter,” Markram said at a news conference Tuesday. “The tournament definitely gave me the confidence and belief that I probably lacked before the IPL. It played a role in putting me in a better place mentally and giving me a bit more belief that I can compete on that stage with some of the really good cricketers in the world.”
There is a difference between T20 franchise tournaments and international games, but if they retread, refresh and reboot players like Markram, their opposition should be grateful. Especially if they support teams who have to go through the qualifiers to get to the World Cup.