Sunday Times E-Edition

Proteas could be hobbled by IPL franchises


Cricket South Africa risks losing some of its top male players to Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises, with the real possibility that it will have to negotiate to ensure those players turn out in the green and gold.

While it is believed that none of the current Proteas have been approached to sign long-term deals with IPL franchises, which could lock them in for 12 months, CSA is concerned that after this year’s World Cup in India, things could change. One official described the prospect as “inevitable”.

Already there have been reports in England and Australia about leading cricketers in those countries as well as the West Indies being approached about forgoing contracts with their national federations and signing with an IPL franchise.

The expansion of the IPL from eight to 10 teams last year, the creation of new T20 Leagues in which the IPL franchises have bought teams, and the enormous financial outlay will have a profound effect on the world game.

“It will look a lot like the club football model,” said one local agent. “The player is contracted by the club and then only plays for their country during ‘international weeks’ or at tournaments like a World Cup.”

The cricket calendar is packed with T20 League tournaments, including the SA20, the Pakistan Super League, the International League T20, the Indian Premier League, The Hundred, the Caribbean Premier League and the Big Bash. Soon to be added to that is Major League Cricket in the US and further down the line a league in Saudi Arabia.

In addition the ICC has scheduled men’s limited-overs tournaments for every year until 2031, which will leave national federations with little leeway should some of their star players choose to sign on with franchises.

The idea for 12-month contracts has been an ongoing discussion behind the scenes at this year’s IPL and with English and Australian players reportedly approached to mull the idea of not signing with their national federations.

One local administrator said it was a “big concern” for SA cricket, although he acknowledged that only a small number of players would initially be affected.

Cricket SA is preparing for drastic changes after this year’s World Cup, believing that players will seek very specific contracts, with the growth of T20 leagues and the lack of Test matches for the Proteas over the next few years among the primary reasons.

There are currently eight IPL franchises that own a team in at least one or more country’s T20 leagues other than the IPL. For instance the Mumbai Indians, besides its team in India, owns a side in each of the SA 20, the International League T20 in the UAE and in the soon to be launched Major League Cricket competition.

The idea of the franchises is to place players on 12-month contracts and then have them represent the franchise in different leagues.

“On the one hand (a 12-month franchise contract) is likely to be attractive to someone who is in the latter stages of his career,” said the agent.

Another route is for a young player to earn himself a deal before he has even played for his country, like Dewald Brevis. The 20-yearold has barely played provincial cricket, but has been part of the Mumbai Indians franchise and besides playing for both the IPL and SA20 teams also toured with the franchise’s development squad to England last year.

That scenario is likely to remain rare. “For the most part the way for a player to gain the attention of a franchise is still through performances for their national team.”





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