No Afridi or Razzaq in South Africa's T20 competition
Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq will not travel to play in South Africa's domestic 20-over competition. The Pakistan duo was signed up by the Johannesburg-based Lions franchise, whose chief executive Cassim Docrat confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that neither will participate in the tournament.
National duty will keep Afridi away from The Wanderers. Pakistan play four ODIs and three T20s against England between February 13 and 27. Afridi will then play two matches for the Dhaka Gladiators in the Bangladesh Premier League and will likely also be involved in the Asia Cup which is scheduled for March 12 to 22. The South African tournament runs over six weeks from February 15 which will clash with both these events.
Razzaq recently had a shoulder injury which kept him out of Pakistan's end-of-year tour to Bangladesh. He played for the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League, alongside Afridi, but has not been performing to standard. He scored 42 runs in six matches and took two wickets for a bloated 123 runs. Docrat said the decision was taken from the Lions side not to pursue the engagement with Razzaq.
The withdrawal of the Pakistan pair leaves the South African competition with just one of its four major signings. Shaun Tait, the Australia fast bowler, pulled out of the Durban-based Dolphins squad two weeks ago with an elbow injury. Only Chris Gayle is still confirmed, for the Dolphins, though there was some speculation about his availability following his hefty deal with the Bangladesh Premier League.
Gayle was bought for US$ 551,000 by Barisal and will only play a handful of matches in Dhaka. The amount he is being paid by the BPL is reportedly eight times more than the Dolphins are dishing out for him but they have received a guarantee from Gayle's management.
"When I saw that he was involved in the Bangladesh Premier League I called his agent to see if it would affect his South African deal," Jesse Chellan, chief executive of the Dolphins said. "His agent has assured us that he will be available for the full campaign. He is due to arrive on February 16."
The Dolphins are still searching for a replacement for Tait. Chellan said the BPL has "hampered us," in the search to find suitable foreign players. Kieron Pollard and Sohail Tanvir were also on the radar of some South African franchises but have both been contracted by the BPL.
The Lions are close to signing Dirk Nannes while the Cobras and Titans have secured the services of Owais Shah and Alfonso Thomas respectively. One of the other names mentioned is that of Dwayne Bravo, who was not picked up at the BPL.
The six South African franchises are allowed to contract two foreign players each. The yet-to-be-named to seventh franchise, which will be announced this week and will comprise of the best semi-professional cricketers in the country, will be allowed four. However, with the prospects thinning out it seems likely that the tournament will be without the glam factor that a foreign contingent brings, leaving the competition at risk of being the lowest in profile among its counterparts.
The IPL leads the pack but T20 competitions in other countries have followed suit. The BBL, the BPL and even Zimbabwe's Stanbic T20 featured some of the games marquee 20-over cricketers while South Africa's does not even have a name or a sponsor yet.
The ongoing bonus scandal has kept corporates away from CSA over the past summer. They played the T20s and one-day series against Australia without a backer and secured cooking oil manufacturer Sunfoil ahead of the two Tests. Sunfoil have stayed on for the Sri Lanka series and extended their agreement to include the one-day series.
Standard Bank sponsored the 20-over competition since its inception but pulled out at the end of last season when they cancelled all their sports sponsorships. CSA are still in negotiations for a replacement but the recent resignation of their commercial manager, Richard Glover, has set them further back. With the competition little over three weeks away, the possibility of the tournament being funded entirely by CSA is looming.
A source close to CSA said the body can handle the costs "for now," although the format of the 20-over competition was altered to cater for a specific sponsor. A seventh franchise was included and the teams will play a double-round of fixtures instead of just one match against each of the other teams as was previously the case. "At least CSA have stuck to the new format and have not downgraded the event just because there is no sponsor yet," the source said.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent