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Two days after the conclusion of a humiliating Test round by South Africa in Australia, a new Twenty20 league, SA20, will be launched in Cape Town on Tuesday.
South Africa fell behind in Australia, losing heavily in the first two games and then drawing in the third game hit by the rain.
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The test battles came after South Africa’s embarrassing exit from the T20 World Cup in November, where they lost to the Netherlands in a game they should have won.
«We want to play our part in reviving (South African) cricket,» said Graeme Smith, SA20 commissioner and former Test captain. «We want to get people into the stadium and cheer again.»
Organizers said online tickets were sold out for Tuesday’s opening game between MI Cape Town and the Paarl Royals.
All six league franchises have been acquired by the owners of the Indian Premier League teams. The opening match fighters are side branches of the Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals.
The Cape Town squad will be led by Afghan leg spinner Rashid Khan and will include England trio Sam Curran, Liam Livingstone and Jofra Archer, who is returning to competitive cricket after injuries.
England white ball captain Jos Buttler, who led his country to victory in the T20 World Cup, is the star signer of the Paarl Royals, which will be captained by South African batsman David Miller.
Other key players for the Royals are former England captain Eoin Morgan and opening player Jason Roy.
Buttler hailed SA20 as «a truly important moment in South African cricket history».
While there is a strong sprinkle of England and West Indian players, there are no players from India, Pakistan or Australia.
Despite the teams being owned by India, the Indian board bans their players from foreign leagues.
SA20 clashes with the Big Bash in Australia and a new tournament in the United Arab Emirates.
The tournament, which will end on February 11, takes place during what is traditionally an important part of the local international season.
The one-day international series in Australia was lost for SA20 to ensure the availability of leading local players, jeopardizing South Africa’s hopes of automatically qualifying for this year’s World Cup.
Cricket South Africa has chosen to reduce their international commitments, especially the Tests, and most series over the next four years consist of just two matches.
When the latest upcoming tours schedule was announced, chief executive Pholetsi Moseki said: «You could say the schedule was light, but on our part it was deliberate. We needed to make room for our new T20 competition.»
An example of focusing on T20 at the expense of longer-form cricket is when two of the SA20 captains, Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock, quit Test cricket to concentrate on white ball play.
Versatile Dwaine Pretorius announced on Monday that he is leaving international cricket to concentrate on over 20 matches.
Two of the league’s highest-paid young South African players are Tristan Stubbs, who has played in just eight first-class games, and Dewald Brevis, who has yet to make his first-class appearances.
SA20 followed the IPL by refusing to accredit photographers other than those working for a league-appointed agency.
Smith said the league is following what he describes as «worldwide best practice» in securing product ownership.
The television rights were acquired by Viacom18 in India and Sky Sports in the UK.
SA20 is South Africa’s third attempt to build a viable T20 league.
Unlike the previous two, SA20 has a title sponsor and a television partner in Africa’s largest sports broadcaster, SuperSport.
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