Cape Town, Feb 6 (IANS) A cool breeze, table Mountain view and cricket on a roll! That’s how SA20 welcomes cricket fanatics here in the legislative capital of South Africa.
The fervour for cricket in South Africa can be felt in the air, with the league breathing new life into aspiring young cricketers, offering them the opportunity not only to hone their skills but also to earn a livelihood.
Undoubtedly, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been instrumental in inspiring other nations to adopt a similar approach such as plan and start their own T20 leagues.
The South Africa’s version (SA20) set out to thrill local and international cricket fans and attract new audiences of all ages and over the 4-week inaugural season, did just that.
Speaking exclusively to IANS, former South Africa captain and SA20 League Commissioner Graeme Smith shared his thoughts on the ongoing tournament.
“When conceptualising the SA20 league, our primary goal was to inject positivity into South African cricket and provide a platform for emerging talent to showcase their skills on a global platform. We wanted the league to be a fusion of sport and entertainment, giving fans across the country an unmatched stadium experience alongside world class cricket.
“The success of SA20 has surpassed all expectations, with packed stadiums across all six venues, often reaching near capacity. The league’s global appeal has surged, attracting fans from around the world, notably with a significant increase in engagement and visibility from India. While the league benefits from Indian ownership of its franchises, our focus is on strengthening this connection to establish SA20 as the biggest league outside India,” he said.
“This quality of cricket this season has been exceptional, we are seeing more and more rising stars using the SA20 platform to put their hands up for higher Proteas honours. The likes of Ryan Rickelton, Jordan Hermann, Leus du Plooy, and Ottniel Baartman have highlighted the league’s role in developing home-grown stars, who can compete alongside international players.
“Our ultimate goal is to see these young South African players thrive and contribute to the growth of the sport and ultimately, the success of the Proteas. We want to see them feeding off the experience of playing in front of large crowds and facing top-quality opposition in the SA20 and translate that to the international stage,” the legendary cricketer added.
With fans in host cities coming out in their numbers to support their teams and a sold out final, SA20 marked a revival of passion and welcomed a new generation of fans.
It also has the backing of some of the most recognised T20 franchises in the world, with several IPL strongholds branching out to establish an even greater international footprint.
In season one, the League featured six privately-owned teams of 18 players. Each team was allowed to field up to 4 international players in a match, giving plenty of opportunities for homegrown stars and young local talent to shine while playing alongside the best in the world.