The South African Ram Slam T20 starts next week when all six franchise teams will participate in the launch at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg. This is along the lines of the Discovery Knockout Challenge of years gone by that was the start of T20 cricket and the Finals Day in England. South Africa is the best Test team in world cricket and has made a big contribution to the global game including pioneering the T20 format.
Unfortunately, the current Ram Slam T20’s profile in world cricket does not do justice to the history and success of the South African game. The IPL will always have the highest profile and be the richest T20 competition in the world. However, South Africa with Australia need to be the next best T20 competitions in world cricket. At the moment the Caribbean Premier League is also ahead of South Africa and that is not acceptable.
Cricket South Africa needs to make two structural changes to improve the profile of the Ram Slam T20 and elevate it to one of the best T20 tournaments in world cricket. This needs money and intent for this to be realised.
Foreign players make the IPL the glamourous tournament that it is. India has the commercial resources and cricket passion to do this, but CSA need to take this route if the Ram Slam is to become a sought-after tournament with a global profile. The six franchises need to have two world-class foreign players each and the tournament played when the Proteas players are available. This will ensure that the six franchises are spoilt for choice with international stars, like the Indian franchises. To achieve this CSA probably needs in the vicinity of R12 million to fund these foreign players and to ensure that the right players are contracted. With creative commercialisation it should not be too difficult to secure this type of sponsorship.
The other important matter that needs to be addressed is the racial quota of five. This quota looks worse than it actually is, as most players of colour are there on merit anyway. However, it will complicate the selection process when two foreign and the Proteas players are available. The best teams need to play. CSA needs to use the Sunfoil Series (First-class) and Momentum Cup (50 overs) to grow cricketers for future Proteas teams and to meet their transformation goals. Both these competitions are not commercially viable and in reality are developmental competitions for South African cricket. The only domestic competition that still has commercial value is the T20 format. CSA needs to act now to ensure that the Ram Slam T20 does not follow the same route as the other two. The signs are certainly there.