The upcoming launch of the SA20 league in January will likely spark plenty of curiosity amongst cricket fans from around the world. SA20 League Commissioner Graeme Smith has ambitious plans for the competition and the early signs for the competition are undoubtedly promising.
Securing Betway as the title sponsor was a big statement of intent, while a 10-year broadcast agreement with Viacom18 Sports in India is not to be sniffed at. With the latest SA20 odds suggesting there is little to choose between the six competing teams in the inaugural edition, everything is in place for the league to become a big hit.
Smith has targeted making the SA20 the biggest league outside India – a feat that may be possible given the South African competition’s links with the Indian Premier League (IPL).
All six SA20 teams are owned by IPL franchises, which gives them a head-start in overcoming the challenges they face in establishing the legitimacy of the new league.
The IPL is undoubtedly the pinnacle of T20 franchise leagues, with the competition always attracting the top cricketers from India and overseas.
Seven different teams have won the IPL since it was first launched in 2008, which highlights the competition has a good spread of quality sides.
While knocking the IPL off its pedestal is not among Smith’s stated aims, he has made it clear that he wants the SA20 to become a serious rival to the other franchise leagues.
The current best of the rest is the Big Bash League (BBL) in Australia, with the competition regularly producing some of the most thrilling T20 action on the planet.
Six teams have won the BBL since it was launched in 2011/12, a figure that once again demonstrates healthy competition across the league.
The BBL regularly attracts numerous top-class overseas players, while the homegrown talent is rarely lacking in quality.
The Pakistan Super League (PSL) is not far behind the BBL in terms of overall quality and has seen six different winners in the seven years it has been in existence.
Where the PSL loses out slightly is in the strength of overseas players it is able to attract, with many of them on the fringes of their national teams rather than regulars.
The T20 Blast in England and Caribbean Premier League round off the current top five franchise leagues and both are relatively competitive.
However, given the quality of players who will feature in the inaugural SA20 season, there is every chance the new competition could quickly overtake them.
Jos Buttler is one of the standout names taking part in the first edition of the SA20 and he will be eager to help the Paarl Royals lift the trophy.
Buttler led England to the 2022 T20 World Cup title and brings a wealth of experience of the shortened version of the game to the new league.
With David Miller, Harry Brook, Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock amongst the other top-class players to sign-up, SA20 could soon be challenging the BBL and PSL in the franchise league standings.
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