We want to build the biggest league outside India: SA20 commissioner Graeme Smith

“We want to build something vibrant and be able to build the biggest league outside India is something that we would really love to achieve,” Graeme Smith said.

South African cricketer and SA20 Commissioner Graeme Smith speaks during a press conference regarding the upcoming South Africa T20 cricket league in Mumbai on Friday.

South African cricketer and SA20 Commissioner Graeme Smith speaks during a press conference regarding the upcoming South Africa T20 cricket league in Mumbai on Friday. | Photo Credit: PTI

“We want to build something vibrant and be able to build the biggest league outside India is something that we would really love to achieve,” Graeme Smith said.

The inaugural edition of the SA20 begins next month and Graeme Smith wants to make it the biggest and most vibrant league outside India. The former South Africa captain, who is now the commissioner of the league, believes that the objective of the league is to get South African cricket back to where it belongs.

“We have that opportunity now through the partners we have been able to attract – the six teams, we are going to put sixty to eighty of South African players on the map and bring that fandom to India and the new heroes will come to the IPL (Indian Premier League) and play for South Africa all around the world – that’s out goal,” Smith said on Friday, during a promotional event organised its by broadcast partners Viacom18 Sports.

“We want to build something vibrant and be able to build the biggest league outside India is something that we would really love to achieve,” Smith said.

Though it is a South African league, none of the teams are owned by any local investors. Interestingly, all the six teams are owned by IPL franchises and Smith does not see that as a concern.

“When we went through this process, we did not really have an idea who we would target. We were fortunate to attract the number of bidders that we did into the process. The six outstanding bidders won the opportunity to own teams in South Africa. It’s a very transparent process,” Smith said.

“The South African fans and the public were amazed that these global franchises, the powerhouses of international T20 games, were wanting to get their franchises and get behind South African cricket and strengthen it. It was a huge positive.”

Around the same time, the inaugural T20 league in the UAE is also slated to be held, but for Smith, that’s not a factor.

“We have a great time zone and a great cricketing history, we are not looking to be a 8-10-12 or a 14-week tournament, we think that four to five weeks every year can really make a big impact in the cricketing calendar. Some of the advantages we have over the other leagues is that we have natural homegrown talents. We have a fan base that loves cricket and that’s just waiting to be revived again,” he said.

“Everyone has a love and affinity towards South African cricket. Hopefully, with these new stories, our players will be involved in the IPL and they will grow.”

The event was attended by Smith’s former teammate Mark Boucher and former India captain Anil Kumble and Yuvraj Singh. While they walked down memory lane, Smith deadbatted questions on whether the league was missing out on the glam quotient due to the absence of Indian players.

“India has some of the talented vibrant cricketers in the world. Obviously, everybody would love to have some of the class of the Indian talents and see them live in South Africa. But that’s BCCI’s prerogative. They have the opportunity to make those choices, but if that changes over time, we would love to bring some outstanding talents to South Africa. But for now, it is what it is.”

The tournament begins on January 10 next year with MI Cape Town taking on Paarl Royals at Newlands, and Smith indicated that going forward, they do have plans to launch a women’s T20 league.

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