South Africa’s Global T20 league is the best way to keep players from leaving the country in search of opportunity elsewhere, according to Test and T20 captain Faf du Plessis. A former Kolpak player himself, du Plessis returned to South Africa in 2010-11 after two years at Lancashire and has since become a regular across all formats and in T20 leagues around the world. He hopes the new tournament will afford other players similar opportunity.
“I spoke about it when the Kolpak thing started happening in South Africa – it was probably important that South Africa looked at different ways to try and keep players in the country. I think this is a huge step towards that,” du Plessis said at league’s formal launch in London. “Players don’t have to look outside anymore, from an opportunity point of view and from a financial point of view – they don’t need to go overseas and look for other stuff. This is going to be really important to keeping most of the players in the country.”
Last season, several recently capped internationals including Kyle Abbott, Rilee Rossouw, Dane Vilas, David Wiese, Simon Harmer, Hardus Viljoen and Stiaan van Zyl signed Kolpak deals, prompting fears of a player exodus. All of them cited financial security as a primary reason for their move, but there were also undertones that the strict transformation targets may have influenced their decision. The new Global League is expected to solve both issues.
It is largely foreign-owned – with six of the eight franchises bought by non-South Africans – with players set to be paid in US dollars. CSA have confirmed there will be no targets besides the local-foreign quota imposed on teams, which should provide an incentive for players to stay. But for du Plessis, it’s not just the top tier who will benefit. He explained that South Africa’s domestic players could be the biggest beneficiaries of the new tournament, because it will provide them with exposure to a larger audience and open doors at other competitions.
“I feel the domestic have been under-looked at sometimes,” he said. “You always just get your international players getting good opportunities everywhere around the world, but this will be a great opportunity for the domestic players to put their names out there to the world and somehow try and get into the IPLs and those kinds of tournaments. If you look at the Australian system, there is a lot more players that get picked up from there into the IPLs and that is because of the TV exposure from the Big Bash. This will be exactly the same.”
But the biggest attraction of the new South African league will remain the big South African names. For the first time in South African cricket history, the internationals will be available for an entire domestic T20 tournament. Du Plessis believes that will make be crucial for the profile of this tournament. “We’ve always come back from long tours and there was a lot of important cricket coming up so we haven’t always been around to play as much domestic cricket as was needed,” he said. ” For the whole South African team to be available to play in this tournament is the most important thing.”
Eight marquee South African players have each been assigned, one to each team, nearest to where they are based. Du Plessis will play for the Stellenbosch/Paarl side following his recent move to Cape Town. Hashim Amla, who has moved domestic franchises from Durban to Cape Town will return to Kingsmead. JP Duminy will play in Cape Town, where he is from, Kagiso Rabada in Johannesburg, AB de Villiers in Pretoria and Quinton de Kock in Benoni, though he lives in Pretoria. David Miller has committed to his new home in Bloemfontein and Imran Tahir, who has played at three different South African franchises, will make his debut for the Warriors in Port Elizabeth.
In addition to those players, eight internationals – Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan, Jason Roy, Lasith Malinga and Brendon McCullum – have been confirmed to play, though they’re yet to be allocated to teams. Du Plessis was confident South Africans fans will have their interest piqued by these well-known T20 journeymen.
“You are starting to see different T20 leagues taking up different gaps during the year and current international players can’t participate in all of them – it’s just not possible. What that does is bring in your ex-players, as Brendon talked about, your ‘mercenaries’. South Africa is no different to any other place. The fans would love to see Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard and all those players,” he said, adding that the foreign ownership will also increase awareness around the event. “It will create much more emphasis on cricket in South Africa especially for domestic players.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.