The inclusion of Indian players is one way Cricket South Africa is hoping to reignite its failed T20 Global League, but with India planning a home international season at the same time as the proposed league, it will be difficult for CSA to convince the BCCI to release its players. The Indian domestic cricket season will also be underway at the time, and there is no precedent of the BCCI having released its players for an overseas T20 league.
“We are aware that there is a policy decision (which prevents Indian players from participating in other leagues apart from their own, the IPL) but the fact that there is an appetite to talk about it, gives us hope,” Chris Nenzani, the CSA president, said at a briefing in Port Elizabeth. “There is no agreement at the moment but we will continue to discuss this over the summer. We believe having Indian players in the league could open up a huge market for us.”
CSA has been in close contact with the BCCI since Nenzani and acting CEO Thabang Moroe made a trip to India in mid-November, which was aimed at “improving relations,” between the two boards, something Nenzani described as an “ongoing project,” and a “necessity”.
While the two boards enjoyed a strong relationship since South Africa’s readmission in 1991, it soured in 2013, when CSA appointed Haroon Lorgat, with whom the BCCI had disagreements with during his tenure as the ICC CEO, as their CEO and India subsequently shortened a tour to South Africa. Lorgat and CSA have since parted ways and the new administration, led by Nenzani and Moroe, are keen to re-establish close ties, particularly as CSA seek to start their own franchise-based T20 tournament.
The Global T20 was due to be played in November-December 2017 but was postponed when CSA failed to secure a broadcaster and a title sponsor, despite the presence of three IPL owners among the eight franchises. Lorgat had previously traveled to India to seek a broadcaster but returned empty-handed. The new administration is hopeful they will fare better, if they can convince the BCCI to make Indian players available for a South African T20 tournament.
Even if Indian players were to become part of a new league, CSA has other considerations to mull over before forging ahead with plans for its own T20 tournament. Unlike the original financial model, which was optimistic enough to predict profits from year one and which Moroe called “too ambitious,”, the board is aware that it will need a plan for a model that will see them break even by the third year.
“We cannot operate at a high-revenue level because of the soft currency we deal with,” Moroe said. “And then if we look at something like that Big Bash, in Australia, they have more than one subscription broadcaster. We in South Africa only have one.”
SuperSport, which currently own the rights to cricket in South Africa, was the company CSA was in talks with to air the Global T20 league but they could not reach an agreement. CSA wanted more money for the rights than SuperSport was offering but, with no competition in the market, there was nobody else for CSA to negotiate with. That may change if an Indian broadcaster, lured by Indian players, could come into contention.
Asked whether CSA considered these things when initially planning the Global T20 League, Moroe, who was vice-president when Lorgat was CEO, and Nenzani admitted the board “trusted management,” to put the tournament together. It was only in June, when the board was not receiving satisfactory updates on the progression of the Global T20 League planning, that it chose to intervene. In the months that followed, the relationship between Lorgat and the board became untenable and shortly after he stepped away, the Global T20 League was put on hold.
To avoid making similar mistakes as it plans to relaunch the competition, CSA has now tasked some employees with putting together new financial models and will decide in February which one, if any, it will go ahead with. It is also seeking outside assistance in the form of advice from other countries. “Cricket Australia have extended a helping hand and will make data and resources available to us,” Moroe said. “We will also have an exchange of administrative staff for the IPL as well.”