Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent
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South Africa's new franchise T20 league is likely to allow four international players in an eleven, with no other requirements - such as transformation targets - imposed on the teams. Indian players are not expected to be available for the league, but Cricket South Africa's (CSA) ambition is to make it the second best in the world, with a player salary cap of US$1.5 million.
While player names will only be revealed in the coming weeks, Graeme Smith, the league's commissioner, said CSA has already contracted a "a number of leading international players" to combine with local talent.
"This is truly an exciting time for South African cricket; the overwhelming interest shows that the country remains valued in the global cricketing eco-system," Smith said. "A robust bidding process was followed to select the final six owners, the decision was informed by a scorecard based on various criteria to ensure the utmost professionalism, independence, and objectivity to the process."
As reported by ESPNcricinfo on Tuesday, the six teams that will form the league were all bought by groups that own franchises in the IPL. It is understood that a number of South African entrepreneurs bid for the teams, but their offers were well below what the IPL franchise owners bid.
"The strong sports background of the respective owners and the global brands they manage ensures that South African cricket and the broader industry will benefit from their expertise and resources, as they bring stability and experience to the League," Smith said.
The owners of Mumbai Indians bought the Cape Town team; the Lucknow Super Giants owners got the Durban team; the Gqeberha [formerly Port Elizabeth] team went to the owners of Sunrisers Hyderabad; the owners of Rajasthan Royals got the team based in Paarl; JSW Sports, the co-owners of Delhi Capitals, bought the Pretoria side; and Chennai Super Kings Cricket Limited picked up the Johannesburg franchise.
While several other IPL franchises already have a footprint in other leagues, this is CSK's first investment in an overseas T20 competition.
"We have been evaluating new opportunities across the globe over the past few years," CSK CEO KS Viswanathan said. "We felt this T20 league in South Africa will be highly competitive and it is a great opportunity for us to give back to the sport. It would also help us to spot new talent."
Nita Ambani, director of Reliance Industries, said: "I'm delighted to welcome our new T20 team to the Reliance family. We are excited to take the Mumbai Indians' brand of fearless and entertaining cricket to South Africa, a nation that loves cricket as much as we do in India. South Africa has a strong sporting ecosystem, and we look forward to exploring the power and potential of this collaboration."
Though CSA made 10 cities available for bidding, ESPNcricinfo understands that the board pushed for Johannesburg, Centurion, Cape Town, Paarl, Durban and Gqeberha - the same as the MSL teams) - to host the tournament. Locally, concerns are growing that the country's central region in the Free State, which includes cricket boards in Bloemfontein and Kimberley, are being neglected and will see waning support for cricket and development of cricketers in the current environment.
The involvement of South African television broadcaster SuperSport, which has a stake in the league, is what insiders are saying gives the league "a much better chance [of success] than the other two tournaments" that failed. In 2017 the Global League T20, which also had IPL-owners involved but no confirmed broadcaster, was abandoned before it began, and the Mzansi Super League (MSL) was effectively given to the public broadcaster for free in 2018 and 2019. Supersport's involvement this time includes a 30% share in the tournament as well as television rights.
CSA is aiming to announce more details, including the name of the league and the date of the player auction, early next month. The league is slated to take place in January 2023 and at the same time in subsequent years, with the tournament due to start immediately after the New Year's Test. According to the draft of the ICC's FTP seen by ESPNcricinfo, in 2024, the league could coincide with a Test tour of New Zealand, and in 2027, with a home series against England. CSA has taken the pragmatic view that in some years the T20 league will be played at the same time as Test cricket, but white-ball players should be available for the league.
A potentially more serious clash is with the UAE's International League T20, which will also take place in January. Sources close to CSA say the board is backing their own league to be more successful because of the domestic talent base, which will require fewer international players to make up teams and should guarantee a high quality of cricket.