The SA20 player auction: all you need to know

Cricket South Africa finally looks set to put their own T20 show on the road. Well, it’s not quite there yet, and there’s reason to be apprehensive, looking at the fates of the Global T20 League and the Mzansi Super League. This time, though, there are cash-rich investors and in-demand players, and the tournament, called SA20, looks good to go. Before that, there’s a player auction. Here’s what you need to know about it.

Before anything else, where did the T from T20 go?
Well, it sounds and looks different, and saves a bit of space on the communication material. Doesn’t matter hugely, does it? Anyway, if you’re really interested, SA20 commissioner Graeme Smith was quoted as saying that it “shows our intention to be different”.

What’s the format of the SA20, what are the dates?
Six teams will be playing the inaugural edition of the tournament: MI Cape Town, Durban Super Giants, Johannesburg Super Kings, Paarl Royals, Pretoria Capitals and Sunrisers Eastern Cape. The tournament will be held in a window in January-February 2023, and will be spread across the six cities the teams represent: Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Paarl, Pretoria and Gqeberha.

Wait! Something about those team names…
Couldn’t have missed that, really. The teams belong to groups that own IPL teams. Some of them are expanding their businesses with franchises in the CPL and also in the other new T20 league, in the UAE, called International League T20 (ILT20). At the SA20, they own all the six teams – that’s quite something, isn’t it?

I also heard something about an auction. But isn’t that an IPL thing?
Well, yes. Maybe because the owners like the auction format, being used to it for so long at the IPL… It’s on September 19, that’s Monday, in the evening. In Cape Town.

Details, details… how many players and so on…
A total of 533 players have been listed, but not all of them might need to go under the hammer. You see, each team can have a maximum of 17 players. However, they have already signed on a combined 23 players from a pool of 30 via a pre-auction direct-acquisition process. They could pick a maximum of five players pre-auction. Some of them have chosen only two, some all five. That limit of five, by the way, could have a maximum of three overseas [non-South Africa] players, one South Africa international, and one uncapped South African player.

How much money do the teams have? And what else do I need to know about the auction?
Franchises will be permitted to sign up to seven international players and ten South Africans in their 17, with a view of fielding a maximum of four overseas players in the XI – the same rule as in IPL. Of the 533 players who will be part of the auction, 248 are South Africans.

As for the base prices of players, the top three in the auction are: Rand 1,750,000 (US$100,000 approx.), Rand 1,700,000 ($97,000 approx.) and Rand 850,000 ($48,000 approx.). Out of the 248 South Africans in the auction, 11 have set themselves the highest base price – like West Indies’ Jayden Seales and Odean Smith from the overseas players – while a total of 52 cricketers – including big South Africa names like Dean Elgar, Temba Bavuma and Tabraiz Shamsi – have the lowest of the top-three base prices.

The franchises have an overall purse of US$2 million and can buy as many players as they like, up to the maximum limit of 17. The money available to them at the auction will be based on what is left of the purse after the pre-auction signings.

So who are the 23 players who have been selected so far?
Just take a look at this graphic below – it’s got everything.

What about the fixtures and the schedule?
A total of 33 matches will be played in the tournament. All teams will play each other twice – on a home-and-away basis – with two semi-finals and the final to follow. However, the complete schedule is yet to be released by CSA.

So, where to follow the auction, you ask?
A stream of the auction, and a blog with blow-by-blow updates, will be live on ESPNcricinfo.

One last thing – isn’t the UAE league also in January-February?
Indeed. The SA20 will take place in the same period as the ILT20, and also clash in parts with the BBL in Australia and the BPL in Bangladesh. Player availability might be an issue in some cases. Rashid Khan and Liam Livingstone, for example, will be available only for part of the BBL, because they had signed with the SA20 first.
See, after two unsuccessful attempts at starting a T20 league, CSA is trying very hard to get this going. The board even cancelled the national side’s three-match ODI series in Australia, which has points at stake for World Cup qualification, to ensure maximum participation of their own best players in SA20.

(With Inputs from ESPN)

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