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SA20 commissioner Graeme Smith hopes the new local T20 league will strengthen South African cricket like the Indian Premier League (IPL) did for Indian cricket.
The inaugural SA20 auction took place on Monday at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, with 318 players going under the hammer.
Cricket South Africa (CSA) will be hoping that this new tournament will be a success after two previous attempts, the Global League T20 and the Mzansi Super League, never took off.
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Smith, who stepped down as CSA Director of Cricket earlier this year, came on as the new face of the T20 league, which sees six IPL franchises co-own their respective SA teams.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous as standing on a stage. The amount of work that’s been done to set it up and having six franchise owners investing in South African cricket is exciting,” Smith told reporters on Monday.
“It’s been great to watch. It’s terrific and hopefully the start of a lot more to come.”
Bidding wars occurred from the moment the auction commenced, with Proteas fast bowler Lungi Ngidi opening the player draft.
Ngidi was snapped up for R3.4 million for the Paarl Royals. Proteas batter Rilee Rossouw signed for the Pretoria Capitals for R6.9m, while all-rounder Marco Jansen was snagged by the Sunrisers Eastern Cape for R6.1m.
Tristan Stubbs became the most expensive player sold at the SA20 auction after he was bought for R9.2 million to the Sunrisers Eastern Cape.
Smith says that the SA20 can only benefit South African cricket as he revels in the money spent on local players in the auction thus far.
“It sets the standard, and it shows the way the teams are thinking and the investment into South Africa are spending. Six out of the eight being bought for substantial numbers, it’s a great story to start,” said Smith.
“We want to put 60 and 70 players on a platform. We’ve seen how the IPL has strengthened cricket across the board, exposing 60 or 70 players with the levels and coaching and the professionalism that it can bring. It can only benefit South African cricket.
“The stage and the amount of eyeballs watching the SA20 is going to be huge, it’s great to see. [I] Couldn’t have asked for a better platform for the South African players and the team owners have shown where the players lie. I think it’s a great story and a great start to the tournament.”
Former Proteas all-rounder JP Duminy, who is the coach of the Paarl Royals, was bought for $950k (more than three times his reserve price) for the Mumbai Indians in his debut IPL season in 2009.
Duminy reminisced over his IPL fee and said that he is sure a lot of players will be smiling following the SA20 auction, set to conclude at 20:00.
“If I think back to myself, I was actually too nervous to watch, and I just got a message from my agent, so I’m not sure where the players are watching. I did get a message or two saying, ‘thank you for bidding for me’,” said Duminy.
“It’s an exciting time for those individuals and the greater good of South African players. It’s great to be a part of it. You’re going to have a couple of players that are going to be smiling tomorrow, and to be a part of that, it’s awesome.”