Cape Town – South Africa could do more to maximise the potential of its main domestic Twenty20 competition, says former national coach and all-rounder Eric Simons.
Simons has plenty of experience of the popular format through his tenure as head coach of the Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League (IPL), and embarks shortly on a fresh challenge in charge of start-out franchise St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) which runs from June 20 to July 26.
The St Kitts and Nevis Patriots have replaced the disbanded Antiguan side for the latest edition of the event, although inherited some of that team’s domestic players; also at his disposal will be such household international names as Shahid Afridi, Martin Guptill and Marlon Samuels.
Simons told Sport24 in an interview that the IPL and Australia’s Big Bash are the “benchmark” tournaments in the T20 landscape, but that South Africa’s Ram Slam T20 Challenge had scope for improved global awareness and expansion.
“There’s so much we can learn from a few of the others ... ours could be at the forefront, helped by its good timing in the summer (early November to mid-December for the 2015/16 season) both from a broadcasting and spectator point of view.
“You have to think big: we need to pitch it more as an international tournament.”
Asked whether money – including the generally unfavourable rand exchange rates against other currencies – was an issue, Simons said: “Well, many good guys in the West Indies are not exactly overpaid and they are keen to play in these sorts of tournaments around the world.”
Cricket in the Caribbean is in a stubborn doldrums in many respects, but even the CPL appears to attract a greater array of world-renowned players than the South African tournament does.
Apart from the globe-trotting individuals Simons will soon be working with for the Patriots, this year’s (six-team) CPL is also expected to feature the likes of controversial England reject Kevin Pietersen, Lasith Malinga, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene of Sri Lanka, Daniel Vettori and Ross Taylor (New Zealand), Brad Hodge (Australia) and Kamran Akmal (Pakistan).
Several South Africans are also scheduled to make the trek, including Jacques Kallis, Justin Ontong, Robin Peterson, Rusty Theron, Eddie Leie, Henry Davids, Johan Botha and Cameron Delport.
The Patriots’ lone SA figure is an interesting gamble: the Titans’ relatively inexperienced, Johannesburg-born Tabraiz Shamsi, 25.
“He’s very much a wildcard for us but as he bowls left-arm chinamen/googlies he possesses a few of the mystery-spinner type of requirements that can pay dividends in T20 cricket,” said Simons.
The 53-year-old former Western Province favourite, who holds 23 one-day international caps, says he “didn’t go looking” for the Caribbean post, although he “likes the dynamics of these tournaments plus the excitement factor”.
Probed on whether a coaching post with another national team would ever interest him, he replied: “I suppose one never says never, but I’ve also got my business (in property development) and am in a different phase of my life.”
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