South Africa will host the first Africa T20 Cup as a curtain raiser to the domestic season. Makhaya Ntini, the former South Africa fast bowler, is the face of the 16-team event, which will see 13 South African provincial sides compete with Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya and will run for a month from September 4 to October 4.
The dates coincide with the window that the Champions League T20 would have been played in, further fueling speculation that the tournament will be cancelled. In previous years the CLT20 has been held from mid-September to early October, during which no international fixtures were scheduled but with its possible cancellation, it seems South Africa are making other plans.
CSA were one of the three shareholders in the CLT20 and its franchises have the most to lose from its culling. The participation fee of US$200,000 was more than the prize money available for any of South Africa's domestic competitions and the compensation of $150,000 received for South African players who chose to represent their IPL franchises was always welcomed. Franchise CEOs around the country expressed to ESPNcricinfo their concerns that if the CLT20 did not take place, it would leave them in a financial quandary.
The Africa T20 Cup may not immediately solve that but it could have some spin-off benefits particularly if it attracts sponsorship. South Africa's provincial teams, which are semi-professional sides that make up the tier below franchise level, have not been able to generate much money in the past and have lacked for a tournament with profile. CSA are hoping to change that.
"This tournament is an exciting new concept for our cricket," Haroon Lorgat, the CSA CEO, said. "It should provide impetus at the start of a season with exciting and competitive playing opportunities plus revenue generating potential for each team."
The 13 provincial sides will each be allowed to field a maximum of four franchise players and one international. They will also be required to have at least two Under-21 players and have to fulfill the transformation quota of at least six players of colour including at least three black Africans. No such restrictions apply to the three international sides.
The 16 teams have been divided into four pools and will play at four upcountry venues in the Gauteng and Free State province. The tournament has been confined to those regions given the early season, which would mean coastal venues would not have been ready in time. All four of the stadiums - Potchefstroom's Senwes Park, Benoni's Willowmoore Park, Kimberley's Diamond Oval and Bloemfontein's Mangaung Oval - are international grounds that do not receive as much as cricket as the bigger arenas.
The four group winners will advance to the semi-finals with the venue for those matches and the final yet to be confirmed. What CSA have sewn together are some broadcasting rights for the competition. SuperSport will screen 10 days of the tournament, including the knockouts. There will be two matches a day for the duration of the tournament.
"We are keen to lead the way in developing an Africa-wide competition," Lorgat said, while Ntini, who has not had an official role within CSA since retiring four years ago, confirmed his desire to see the game grow on the continent. "The development of the game on the continent is something that is close to my heart," Ntini said.