CSA Cricket League Withdraws From 2022 ODI Series Against Australia. What Did The CSA Do?
The CSA Cricket League has announced that they will withdraw from the 2022 ODI series against Australia. But why do they do it? The purists of the sport will say cricket is a 'Gentlemen's game' which was mostly played by the elite in the UK and a handful of countries that were part of the British Empire. So cricket has always followed a format where national teams compete against one another in a set of meaningless bilateral games and take part in a World Cup once every four years.
But contrary to what the nostalgists of the game will make you believe, cricket, which people pay to watch, has and will exist simply because it makes money. It has always been about money. Understandably, cricket boards across the globe run after properties that deliver profits. At the moment, the money is in the franchise T20 leagues and not in bilateral international cricket. So every country is scrambling to set up a T20 league of its own to get its share of the pie.
Why Did The CSA Cricket League Pull Out Of The 2022 ODI Series Against Australia?
In simple terms, they just canceled a 3-match bilateral 2022 ODI series against Australia, which is scheduled to take place in January 2023. The reason they cited for forfeiting the games is that the ODI series is clashing with their domestic T20 league. For those of you who haven't heard, South Africa is planning to start a domestic league of its own like virtually every other cricket-playing nation in the world. This is their third attempt, by the way, with the first two tournaments ending in disaster.
The board wants its best players to feature in their own tournament rather than playing in the ODI series against Australia. And these aren't meaningless ODI's either. They are part of the ODI Super League, which will decide which nations will directly qualify for the 2023 World Cup.
CSA has requested the Australian board to reschedule the three fixtures, but with a packed international calendar, there were no available slots to fit in the 3-match ODI series. By not competing in the series, the Proteas have agreed to concede the 30 Super League points to the Australians.
CSA Cricket League Chief Executive Officer, Pholetsi Moseki said, "CSA Cricket league is always keen on honoring its bilateral commitments. While CSA is committed to honoring its fixtures in respect of the Future Tours Programme there will sometimes be unforeseen circumstances that would negate this resolve.
Does The CSA Cricket League Still Have A Chance To Qualify For The T20I World Cup?
South Africa currently sits in 11th position in the Super League standings and is in a precarious position already. Only the top seven nations and the host country directly qualify for the World Cup, while the rest of the teams will fight it out in a 10-team qualifier tournament.
South Africa has won just 4 of their 13 Super League games so far, which puts them outside the qualification zone for the World Cup. They have lost 7 games, including a defeat to Ireland and a couple of ODI's against the Netherlands, and Ireland was declared as a no result.
Their toughest assignments are still ahead of them with the ODI series against India and World Champions England still to take place after which they take on the Netherlands. Even if they win all their remaining 8 games, they still might not make it into the World Cup. They might rue the losses suffered against Pakistan and Bangladesh at home, while also suffering a defeat against Ireland.
Even if the Proteas do play the 2022 ODI series against Australia, it would still be difficult to qualify, owing to their slow start. Hence, there is a distinct possibility that South Africa might not go directly into next year's World Cup in India.
Is It Really The Fault Of The CSA Cricket League For Quitting The Game?
The purists of the game will definitely blame the board for promoting a domestic league over a prestigious tour of Australia. But the fact is, there was nothing to gain in terms of revenue for the South African board, which is in a difficult financial situation.
CSA announced losses of close to R221 million for the 2020/21 financial year due to the Coronavirus pandemic crippling the cash reserves of an already cash-strapped board. This was after the board cut down on its expenditure from R1.2-billion to R700 million.
In this scenario, the Proteas' board cannot afford more losses. Some would say this was payback for Australia not visiting the Rainbow Nation last year owing to a surge in the country's Covid cases. It was actually the 'Big Three' that started this mess of pulling out of tours and forcing the start of unplanned tours due to their own financial interests.
The ECB was saved from bankruptcy in 2020 when Pakistan and West Indies toured England at a time when Britain was reporting the highest Covid cases in the world. Australia pulled out all the stops to make sure the tour of India went through in the summer of 2020, which protected CA from a financial meltdown.
But when it was time for these nations to reciprocate the same, they backed down, citing illogical reasons. England and New Zealand pulled out of their respective Pakistan tours, citing security concerns despite the success of South Africa's tour of Pakistan. In December 2020, England went home in the middle of their SA tour due to two Covid cases, which ultimately turned out to be false positives.
Australia canceled their 3-match test series against South Africa in March 2021, even though it meant losing their place in the Test championship final with their reason also being an increase in Covid-19 cases. But both these sets of players went on to play in the lucrative IPL during a time when India was reporting half-a-million cases a day. England's early departure resulted in a loss of R30 million for the CSA, while the canceled Australian tour cost around R40 million.
Even when both England and Australia toured SA in the summer of 2020, they returned with a loss, showcasing the board's dependency on India and on ICC tournaments. The all-format tour of India in 2021/22 was the only saving grace for CSA, which made R700 million from India's visit.
So, South Africa didn't think twice about forfeiting the ODI series against Australia, putting their interests first. All six franchises in their league were acquired by IPL franchise owners and they have a broadcaster in Supersport that owns equity in the league. The league is predicted to break even after four years and thereon, will make a profit of $63 million each year. The blame doesn't fully lie on the side of Proteas but this could start a domino effect that could make bilateral ODI matches a thing of the past.
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