Lloyd Burnard

CSA's biggest challenge in 2017

2017-01-16 13:35
Lloyd Burnard

Cape Town - The optimism surrounding the Proteas at the moment is unmissable. 

Positive results will do that, and following convincing Test series wins against New Zealand, Australia (away) and Sri Lanka, as well as a 5-0 ODI series triumph at home against the Aussies, it is safe to say that things are going well for coach Russell Domingo and his charges. 

This past weekend's dominant display in the third Test against Sri Lanka came at just the right time and provided a much-needed injection of positivity. 

The week leading up to that Test match had been marred by the Kyle Abbott saga, which saw the 29-year-old seamer announce that he was on his way to Hampshire on a Kolpak deal that would effectively end his international career. 

On the same day, news of Rilee Rossouw's Kolpak deal with the same club was announced. David Wiese followed and all of a sudden there were renewed fears over the exodus of South African players abroad. 

Kolpak deals are obviously nothing new - Hardus Viljoen, Stiaan van Zyl and Simon Harmer are also relatively recent losses - but Abbott and Rossouw made serious waves because of their high profiles and the fact that they were playing significant roles in the current set-up. 

Cricket South Africa (CSA) has been forced into an urgent rethink as a result, and they must now identify the best possible ways to keep their best talents on South African shores. 

One possibility is to move for longer CSA contracts, while more immediately CSA will be looking to limit the number of Kolpak players that South African domestic sides are able to field. 

The hope here is that more slots open up in domestic cricket for players who commit to South Africa, while signing a Kolpak deal will now also come with the risk of losing out on a chance to play domestic cricket in South Africa.

But it is the launch of a new-look T20 competition this year that surely warrants the most urgent attention. 

CSA have not divulged too much information here, but it is expected that the new eight-team franchise competition will serve as the country's premier T20 tournament from this year onward. 

South Africa needs a T20 tournament that can attract big players and big money in the same way that the IPL, Big Bash and Caribbean Premier League does. 

CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat has said that this tournament could play a major part in keeping players in the country.

It would, of course, be a way for today's players to make more money.

If a South African player has an IPL contract, plays for the Proteas and plays domestic cricket in South Africa, then the added incentive of a T20 contract in his own country would increase his financial intake without him having to take his permanent business elsewhere. 

This all hinges on the financial backing of the tournament. The money would have to come from somewhere and whether that comes from local or international investment remains to be seen.

South Africa's current transformation targets may be a necessity at domestic level, but they could make things complicated in looking to attract foreign investment and big-name players.

As it stands, there are only five slots available in each domestic side for those who are not players of colour. 

When one considers that the tournament will look to attract names from abroad, then keeping the current targets would even further limit the opportunity for white South Africans to be a part of the competition. And that would not help CSA's mission to keep South Africans in South Africa. 

In the new-look tournament, would the same targets apply? 

How would foreign investors feel about buying into a tournament with such non-negotiables?

From the outside looking in, it seems like the best bet would be to relax the transformation goals for this tournament. 

It would, after all, run independently from the rest of the domestic season so it might not have to abide by the same rules.  

The Big Bash is packing stadiums in Australia this season, and that competition is in its sixth year. 

In a perfect world, South Africa would be in a similar position - six years into a plan of how to maximise the commercial value of its T20 landscape. 

There have been efforts in the past and money has been spent on getting the likes of Pietersen, Gayle, Russell, Pollard etc, but the competition has struggled to make serious waves due largely to the fact that it is always played during an international window. 

This time the organisers are reportedly looking at a December 16 final. The Proteas would be playing no cricket during that time and would be available for the tournament.

It is not fair to compare South Africa to other parts of the world that have less complications and more money, but this tournament has been talked up as something that can compete with those international products. 

And, scarily, time is running out. 

For that reason, launching the tournament successfully should be CSA's main objective this year. They have much to consider, and much to get right.

It's great that we're winning again, but the real challenges lie off the field. CSA needs to make some serious money - money that will stop players from seeking it elsewhere. 

This T20 competition simply has to be our commercial bread and butter. 

Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24

Read more on:    csa  |  proteas  |  haroon lorgat  |  cricket
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