New SA cricket structure has 'fewer players but intelligent contracting', says SACA CEO

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Hashim Amla (Getty Images)
Hashim Amla (Getty Images)
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  • The new domestic cricket model has caused some excitement and nervousness among players on the eve of its implementation next season, says Andrew Breetzke.
  • The SACA CEO told Sport24 that the new 15-team format would lead to more "intelligent" contracting.
  • SACA initially opposed the restructuring under ex-CSA CEO Thabang Moroe but have since acquiesced to the changes.

South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) CEO Andrew Breetzke detailed the players’ reactions - the positives and negatives - to the contentious new domestic cricket structure that kicks in at the beginning of the 2021-22 season.

Reality sank in this week that there would be 70 fewer contracts available in professional cricket after the top division provinces announced star-studded squads for the new season.

Hashim Amla, Wayne Parnell (both Western Province), Duanne Olivier (Central Gauteng Lions), Stiaan van Zyl (Boland) and Simon Harmer (Northerns) were some of the headline returns from British Kolpak deals forming part of renewed domestic squads.

With the former franchise system dissolved, Boland, Central Gauteng Lions, Eastern Province, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal Coastal, North West, Northerns and Western Province form part of an eight-team Division 1. 

Border, Easterns, KwaZulu-Natal Inland, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and South Western Districts make up the seven-team Division 2, with a chance at promotion after two seasons.

There'd be no more piling in on flashy T20 merchants while ignoring first-class and List-A mainstays when it comes to building local squads, according to Breetzke.

"Contracting has to be more intelligent and thought through," said Breetzke.

"You have to have a balanced squad because promotion and relegation is going to be dependent on your performance across three formats.

"In the past, teams might try to win the T20 event and load their squad with T20 players and just pull guys up from senior provincial ranks to play 4-Day cricket.

"You can’t do that anymore. That will hopefully ensure that players’ careers will be better managed and that senior provincial level won’t just be seen as a dumping ground for players to pull up.

"Plus, if you’re in the second division, the incentive to get promoted and the financial rewards it brings will mean they are encouraged to go get their own sponsors and make sure they have good squads etc.

"That competitiveness will improve in this system."

SACA initially opposed the proposal that Cricket South Africa (CSA) tried to enact back when Thabang Moroe was CSA CEO, for the mother body’s failure to adequately consult players before radically restructuring the system.

The acrimony went as far as court challenges. But SACA acquiesced to the changes after a David Richardson-chaired Independent Evaluation Committee took an extensive look at the model, with players’ inputs included this time around.

READ | CSA reveals star-studded Division 1 squads for new domestic structure

Breetzke said there was still some nervousness among your less glamorous cricketers who have yet to find a place in the new ecosystem.

"There are obviously 70 fewer contracts, which means 70 fewer players," Breetzke told Sport24.

"There’s a nervousness, a concern among players, especially now that we are moving to the Division 2 teams. That’s where you’re going to see the fallout happening of the old semi-pro level.

"SACA are putting in place measures to try help players who fall on the wrong side of it.

"But there’s also an excitement among players that it is more competitive and there is more opportunity at the highest level.

"There’s opportunity to get promoted, if you’re at the bottom, and it’s more 'lucrative' than the old senior provincial side [used to be]. Those are the positives that players are looking at.

"The negative is that it’s a smaller system, obviously."

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