Exclusive: We offered several solutions to Cricket Australia, but nothing worked. Graeme Smith says T20 league is important for SA Cricket News

The world of cricket is changing and at the center of it is the emergence of a brand new T20 league which is being launched by Cricket. South Africa (CSA). Scheduled to start in January next year, the ‘domestic’ league recently had all six franchises bought by the owners of the Indian Premier League (IPL) teams.
One of the men at the forefront of establishing this league is none other than South Africa and one of the greatest Test captains in the world – Graeme Smith.
The 41-year-old spared some precious time to speak to TOI.
Excerpts from an interview:
There is a lot going on in the world of cricket right now, and much of it is centered around the new T20 league. South Africa have made a tremendous statement by getting six IPL franchises on board, finding a nice window and signing up some really big names…
Yes, and we are very excited. We have been working tirelessly behind the scenes for some time to set this up. And now we are public with six very strong team owners who have invested in the league and South African cricket. It’s not just credibility that these team owners bring to the league, but sustainability is very important for this type of league. The key is the partners who have come on board.
It’s all been very exciting for us and now it’s about delivering on the league itself. The pressure points to get it all set up and ready for January are, as you can imagine, quite extensive. We will work with everyone to get it ready in time.
What do we expect? To make cricket competitive. If that happens, the fans will love it and it will be big.

South Africa is also uniquely positioned to meet global time zones simultaneously. How good and unique is that proposal?
From a business perspective, the time zone that South Africa provides globally is a real asset. We are fortunate to be able to reach many global cricket markets because of it. The weather will be good in January. So yes, ‘prime time summer’ – it will work beautifully, and we will be uniquely placed to ensure that the product is well consumed around the world.
CSA has excellent relations with India. Right now, this may not mean much in the current context, but given the stakes BCCI In world cricket, it’s great to have “real friends” from a future perspective…
Add to that, the rich history between Indian and South African cricket that predates my time, post-apartheid. The people, the competitive nature, the support that South African cricket has received. Even when we look at the last Indian tour when Omicron hit, Jay (BCCI Secretary Jai Shah) and the Indian team was happy to support us – the tour was very successful and absolutely necessary from a South African cricketing perspective. So, it’s nice to have those relationships.
There is a lot to learn from the BCCI as they have built something so successful and have taken a lot of guidance from them. From our perspective, we really want to set this up as something strong going forward – both, from a commercial and cricketing POV. We would love to attract the global audience and especially the Indian audience. Our relationships with our partners and India will be key to whatever success we seek to achieve in this competition.

What also sets the SA League apart is the potential for a local ecosystem that South Africa already has – a sure shot in the arm…
It is key to see the difference this league makes to the domestic circuit in South Africa. The idea, not just behind what we are doing but in general, should be to ensure that cricket starts and develops at the grassroots level all the time. The mindset was always to make it in your own country.
We will be the South African league. Yes, we will have international talent but most of the players in the XI (seven) will be from South Africa. So, the opportunity for them to develop, our owners and their investments and the opportunity that comes with the South African cricket development system is just huge and tremendous.
It is a local product and South Africa cricket comes first. The global expertise of the four foreign players in the playing eleven and the experienced franchisees supporting these teams are also beneficial in the development of South African cricket, player growth and business development.
It is so important with these leagues that they benefit the country’s ecosystem to grow the game and that only leaves cricket in a better place.
Commentary on how the T20 league started and how it will move into the windows of bilateral cricket and how the game will never be the same is deafening right now. Your thoughts…
I think the landscape is definitely changing over the years, no? Each home federation is looking forward to the sustainability of cricket in their country. And I think it’s very important for South African cricket to have a product that they own, that they can grow and monetize. He will strengthen South African cricket not only from a playing point of view but also professionally.
South Africa had fallen behind on that front and needed to step up. We also had to take some ownership of our own sustainability and this league is a major part of that.
As for bilateral cricket, watch it with focus ICC, it’s packing now. Look at the next seven years, you have seven world events, the calendar is getting tight and it’s not easy to figure it all out. So, present-day cricket is a topical issue and it has become an issue and one needs to look at it and see how they can balance it going forward.

Very interesting line you mentioned – boards need to take responsibility for their own sustainability. All these cricket boards need to be carved in stone, especially these days…
Change with time is important. The world does not want South African cricket to just fade away and become uncompetitive. It has to be competitive. The world of cricket cannot survive on three or four teams. Or maybe it can, but will it help? So, obviously, the way forward is the development of the game and more competitive teams. The onus here is on the board to take ownership of their own sustainability, help grow the game and make it more competitive so we can challenge ‘England’ and ‘Australia’ on and off the field. It is important that it happens.
The league is a big step in ensuring that the CSA is sustainable, that there is investment in the grassroots, that players back in South Africa are also rewarded for their talent.
When news broke that South Africa had pulled out of the “ Australia ODI” – was that description true? Or was there more to it than it turned out?
Firstly, being out of South Africa during the prime time of the year is a big deal for South Africans. Because, commercially, that’s our prime time of year in South Africa, fans are on holiday, revenue for CSA is at its highest. Therefore, it is unimaginable for them to be in Australia during Boxing Day and New Year.

And this is not the first time SA has been vocal about it…
Yes, we all know how it works. You don’t get income unless you are at home. It is domestic sports that provide that income. This decision was made in the best interest of our league. I also know that at the CEO Cricket South Africa Reached out numerous times to try and reach a solution Cricket Australia On those three ODIs. We offered several solutions for it, which did not work for Cricket Australia. Unfortunately, things got to the point where they are now. I think no solution could be found for the offers made by CSA.
I think it was months of engagement and meetings during the IPL final and I know they really tried to make it work. We have good relations with Australia, England, India. West Indies And all the boards. We need to work together but there needs to be an understanding that cricket in South Africa also needs sustainability and we need to focus on that as well.
The fact is that people underestimate what a great calling Australia has. Yes, it’s great for cricket and I’ve played there myself in the Boxing Day and New Year’s Test matches, it’s certainly exciting for the world game and the CSA should be congratulated for making that commitment.
The general perception at the moment seems to be that the CSA and the UAE T20 League are at war over signing players. What is the real picture?
I think signing players is more of a problem for the UAE at the moment. Obviously, when you’re launching a league, everyone wants to talk about talent. But most of the teams in the SA league will be made up of our own talent. We have a rich player base that we are focused on investing in. It has been great to see our South African T20 team and the way they have progressed over the past year. Look at our batting units in England over the last two-three years. We weren’t ‘there’ two or three years ago, and it’s taken some effort to get there.
It is also the main vision of the league to develop the game in the country and keep it competitive.
But then yes, there are stress points of locking up international players, especially with the UAE, especially given the number of international players they need. But that said, right here in South Africa, we’ve got a very strong base and we’ve already attracted some really strong international talent that will play an important part in launching our league at the level and scale that we want.
What do you make of this whole narrative around one being called a ‘domestic league’ and the other an ‘international league’…
I think I will leave it to the UAE League to answer that and indeed the ICC as well. The ICC wants to keep its world event similar to the World Cup which is an international event. It is one of the biggest international events.
I think from my perspective all these (T20) leagues ultimately need to cater to the home ecosystem and benefit the region. Growing the game at home requires investment and should be a top priority.
That’s what we had in mind when we started working on this and it’s the idea of ​​what our league and our logo is based on.
It was great to see how the owners who won the bidding process could grow and invest in the grassroots levels of the game, which is a key part of the whole exercise.
Yes, as I said there has to be financial sustainability. But if we look at this in the long term, investment in cricket should be key.
Given the self-taught lessons and experience they bring to the table from running teams over the last 15 years, nothing could be better than all the IPL owners coming there…
absolutely. The years of experience they bring in terms of developing brands and teams is incredible. They bring a lot of that to South Africa and have done a lot in terms of helping, supporting and setting up this league and product. They also bring excellence, which is important. They come as a professional team, bringing many years of professional coaching, talent scouting, understanding of the T20 game and how it evolves and all that to South African cricket.
The meeting of minds, the knowledge, the interaction with the coaching staff and the players and the investment in growth is very exciting.
How will SA proceed with the sale of broadcasting rights for the league?
We now move into global markets from a broadcast perspective. We have signed a local broadcaster for the sub-Saharan market, which is SuperSport. We will now reach out to other regions to find suitable business partners. We have started identifying the processes we are going to implement and we will start connecting them soon.


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