The various domestic T20 tournaments have now become a permanent feature of the global cricket calendar. Although each tournament has its own rules with regard to overseas players, the lure remains – big or small – for these players to experience T20 cricket in a another country.
However, for professional cricketers from South Africa there are, realistically speaking, only two options: the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the Caribbean Premier League (CPL). Apart from T20 cricket in England, all other countries’ T20 leagues clash with South Africa’s domestic season. The South African franchises are understandably not keen to release their players for these tournaments. Getting into the English T20 competition is also out of reach for many South African cricketers as the normal qualification rules with regard to overseas county players apply (i.e. either one Test match or fifteen white-ball internationals).
The IPL is a pipe dream for the majority of South African cricketers, as last week’s auction once again showed. Firstly, the IPL franchises have an Australian bias (23 Aussies as opposed to 9 South Africans will be in the 2017 IPL, but Australia is surely not 2½ times better than South Africa) and, secondly, for a South African the route in to the IPL remains through the national team (all 9 IPL players are with the Proteas in New Zealand at the moment).
It means that for a South African player, especially if he’s uncapped, the hopes and dreams of global T20 lie firmly with the CPL.
This year’s CPL draft is on 10 March in Bridgetown, Barbados. 258 players from across the globe (including the Caribbean) are in line for a place in the tournament, scheduled to take place from 1 August to 9 September.
There are 16 South Africans in the draft and 28 from Australia, six more than in the 2016 draft. The Aussie contingent includes the likes of Brad Haddin, Ben Hilfenhaus, Brad Hogg and Adam Zampa. A further 17 New Zealanders, including Corey Anderson, Grant Elliott and Jimmy Neesham, are also in the mix. Pakistan will have the highest representation in the draft after increasing last year’s tally from 38 players to 46.
The two high-profile transfers of Chris Gayle (Jamaica Tallawahs to St. Kitts & Nevis Patriots) and Dwayne Smith (Guyana Amazon Warriors to Barbados Tridents) have been confirmed, but for the rest the players signed on pre-draft agreements and those retained by their franchises will only be announced at the player draft.
The South Africans in the 2017 CPL draft are Farhaan Behardien, Johan Botha (sic), Dillon du Preez, Rob Frylinck, Beuran Hendricks, Eddie Leie, George Linde, Aiden Markram, Justin Ontong, Dane Paterson, Dane Piedt, Aaron Phangiso, Vernon Philander (previously Jamaica Tallawahs), Dwaine Pretorius, Jon Jon Smuts (previously St. Kitts & Nevis Patriots), Grant Thomson and Shadley van Schalkwyk.
At the announcement of the players included in the draft, a paragraph in the official CPL press release read as follows: “But who will be picked to play in this year’s tournament? Top cricket players from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, NZ, Australia as well as a host of top-class T20 players from the West Indies are all in line to get selected for the “Biggest Party in Sport”. South Africa did not even get a mention as a country from which “top cricket players” hail, but Afghanistan did! Bad omen? For the sake of our cricketers, let’s hope not.