Graeme Smith: SA20 League has brought back the spirit of cricket in SA

Sunrisers Eastern Cape celebrate with the trophy after beating Durban’s Super Giants in the final of the SA20 at Newlands in Cape Town

Sunrisers Eastern Cape celebrate with the trophy after beating Durban’s Super Giants in the final of the SA20 at Newlands in Cape Town. Photo: Nic Bothma/Sportzpics

Published Feb 14, 2024


Every cricketer will tell you that the second season is the hardest.

Every little flaw that was previously unknown has been identified and analysed. Mistakes are also not forgiven so easily. And that’s why Graeme Smith feels that what the SA20 has achieved in its second edition is even bigger than its successful maiden sojourn last year.

“By all accounts, throughout this season I think we’ve grown and for us I think the season was a success,” Smith said in a post-tournament wrap yesterday.

“There were a lot of questions building into season 2 about whether we could recreate or get stronger and I think we’ve done that.

“Building into the season a lot of people were saying, ‘Were you a onehit wonder?

“No, we’re not. We’ve established ourselves that this is a very strong league now.

“The cricket was outstanding to watch. All the cricket stats improved dramatically.

“The numbers are up commercially, broadcast viewership numbers are up. The feedback we’ve received from players, teams and fans has been extremely positive.”

The second edition certainly faced its challenges – none more so than the fixture clash with the Proteas Test tour to New Zealand where a hugely understrength national team is currently doing duty. Smith admitted that it was a “disappointing” turn of events, particularly as he will always value the Test-match arena due to his exploits during his playing career.

“This scheduling issue should never have happened. It’s disappointing and it’s crazy that it happened,” Smith said.

“Unfortunately, it is what it is, but I think our Test cricket has been a challenge for a long time performance-wise, and I’d love to see that team strong again and performing well. But like everyone, we’re disappointed at what’s happened and we’ve got to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

There is, however, another potential clash with the ICC Champions Trophy next year in Pakistan and Smith claims they are already in discussions about that.

“We will have to consider everything. The Champions Trophy dates are not set in stone,” he said.

It is not only clashes with cricket fixtures around the world that the SA20 has to compete with for market share, but also the fact that both traditional South African winter sports, rugby and football are now also played in the heart of the summer.

The United Rugby Championship, which has South Africa’s four major rugby teams competing in it, is in direct competition with the SA20.

But the SA20 showed it could hold its own when, despite a Bulls and Lions URC derby happening at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, the SA20 derby between home team the Pretoria Capitals and the Joburg Super Kings was still sold out.

“Rugby and football are popular at national team level but from a domestic-based tournament, we have been able to smash numbers across the board and compete very well,” Smith said.

“We have actually done better than other sports over the same period. It is hugely positive.

“Just to see South African cricket back, to see youngsters coming for the games and the spirit of cricket back in South Africa, that is a bit of a goosebumps moment.

“We are well into the journey to get people to love the game here in South Africa again.”

He also feels that the SA20’s strong relationship with the six Indian Premier League franchises whose owners also own the SA20 teams, remains a blessing for South African cricket.

“We’re very blessed to have six IPL franchises – the six of the strongest franchises in the world game. They bring a lot of expertise on several levels,” Smith said.

“With my interactions with India and Indian cricket, we certainly always reach out and have conversations and learn in debates.

“We have a very strong relationship, which is a positive for us.”


IOL Sport