Johannesburg — Graeme Smith does not believe that the Proteas’ continued failure — specifically at ICC events — will impact on the new tournament that he’s running — the SA20 League.
Smith, the League’s commissioner, said at a bright and loud launch event for the new competition this week, that while victory for the Proteas at the recent T20 World Cup would have helped to elevate the SA20’s status, the excitement around the tournament would be enough to assuage the disappointment among local supporters about the men’s national team.
“Naturally you get a bit of cynicism where South African cricket is concerned. People are craving success and positive vibes around the game and that’s been lacking for the last few years, we know that,” said Smith.
Any concerns Smith had about how the SA20 would be received in the wake of the Proteas’ embarrassing exit at the T20 World Cup Cup, were calmed the next day he explained.
“You have moments (where you worry) … certainly when we went out of the T20 World Cup and the way we did, you wake up the next day and wonder. We released fixtures, thinking ‘how’s this going to be received?’. We were actually very surprised that people are excited about SA20, they see the value it will bring to South African cricket. That was a nice temperature check for me.”
The former Proteas captain, who has suffered painful outcomes at ICC tournaments as a player and then last year in his previous role as Director of Cricket following the team’s exit at the T20 World Cup, is optimistic that not only will the new SA20 League attract supporters, but it will assist Cricket South Africa in strengthening the Proteas.
“Obviously, we want our national teams doing well and being successful. It adds to the game in South Africa. Hopefully we can be an asset that can benefit that in the long run. There is still an extreme amount of talent in that squad. They’ve had high moments and hopefully that elusive win is not far away.”
Much like the Indian Premier League did for Indian cricket, Smith is hopeful that the SA20 will allow a broadening of CSA’s development initiatives, making scouting at junior level even more intense. “We know CSA has invested heavily into the grassroots and we think over time, we’ll unearth some great story lines.”
This week’s launch, offered a flavour of the tournament – it’s going to be loud, fast and colourful and will certainly be targeted at a young market. Smith said that having been through stressful nights worrying about the critical broadcast deal, the next goal was getting to January 10 and watching the opening match unfold.
“The core product will always be cricket,” said Smith. ‘We feel the teams are all evenly matched, and what we want is really exciting cricket. What we also want to bring is a whole new energy and feel to cricket, because we feel that cricket in this country has lost that and we want to try and revive that. There will be lots of entertainment and music and hopefully lots of people dancing in the stands.”