Former South Africa captain and SA20 commissioner Graeme Smith feels the involvement of Indian Premier League (IPL) owners puts his country’s league in an “advantageous” position over others to recruit Indian players “in any capacity” in near future.
Contracted and domestic Indian players are not allowed to participate in any other T20 leagues except the IPL, and it remains a contentious issue.
However, what gives Smith hope is that all six franchises in SA20 are run by owners who own IPL teams.
Smith, one of Test cricket’s finest captains, was quick to add that the BCCI would always have the final say on the matter since it involves their players.
“We think we are perfectly positioned if the BCCI ever changes their mind. Obviously, the relationship with the IPL owners does put us at an advantage, but it’s still a BCCI decision,” Smith told PTI here on Tuesday.
“We will work with Jay (BCCI secretary Jay Shah) and everybody else, and if they decide that there should be a change in the policy, then we will talk to them about it.
“Our relationship with BCCI is good. We would always work with them, but it’s ultimately their decision how they manage their players,” the former skipper added.
The 42-year-old Smith, who had recently expressed his wish to have Dhoni on board, said they are ready to welcome the World Cup-winning captain with open arms.
“I think MS is a great friend of South African cricket and we would welcome him with open arms if he decides to come. We ran into each other at the airports a couple of times. I think right now he is focused on doing well for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL.
“He was very interested in SA20, he was saying before the tournament that he is hoping that it’s a huge success… wants to see South African cricket strong.” Dhoni, 41, has been only playing in the IPL since retiring from international cricket in 2020. With his involvement in the IPL, he is not eligible to play in overseas leagues at the moment. One of the deliverables for the league’s stakeholders is to find traction in India, the sport’s biggest market. Smith is also well aware of the massive viewership the game commands in India.
“We know about viewership in India. Everyone would love to be able to have some of the Indian talents playing in their leagues.
“But as I said, the BCCI has a very strong feeling around that. We will work with them and if they (BCCI) ever change their mind, we would definitely work with them (Indian players),” Smith said.
Not afraid to take on a challenging role, something that he has done through his career – from being appointed captain of the national team aged 22 to taking over as director of Cricket South Africa (CSA) during one its worst periods, Smith said his sole motive now is to make South African cricket strong.
“Over the last couple of years there has been too much politics, too much negativity, and that’s certainly affected its cricket. So it’s greatly satisfying now, to kind of, put cricket first and take it forward.
“For world cricket it is crucially important that South African cricket is strong. Have strong men and women’s cricket teams,” Smith said.
Smith was chuffed about the league’s success in its inaugural season, calling it “incredible”.
“I think season one has been an incredible success on the field and off it. The standard of cricket from the local and international players has been great.
“I think the league has been very competitive. And the energy that SA20 has been able to create, with fans, the public in South Africa, and also internationally… The feedback we have received from broadcasters around the world has been really positive.
“People who often talk about the commercial side, it’s hugely important for cricket in the country to be commercially and financially stable, and I think the league would definitely benefit from that.” Smith, who remains Test cricket’s most successful captain with 53 wins from 109 matches, added, “The expertise that comes back into the game be it the coaches, the physios, the fitness trainers, the franchises and the business acumen they are bringing into South African cricket, I think it will lift the standard of South African cricket.” Could the league, someday, end up playing a role in helping South Africa win itsfirst World Cup? It’s a long shot no doubt, but Smith sounded optimistic.
“The domestic players who are playing in SA20 have never played in front of full crowds before. Playing under pressure can only benefit you.
“We can also bridge the gap between international and domestic cricket with this. You are attracting big international players and the league could allow the selectors to have a pool of 25 to 30 players, instead of 15, to play for the national team.
“We want to see our team as number one in the world, challenging for trophies,” Smith signed off.
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