CAPE TOWN: AB de Villiers will be heading South Africa's first city-based Twenty20 league as he leads Tshwane Spartans in the opening match of Mzansi (South Africa's) Super League against Cape Town Blitz on Friday.
The month-long league will start just under one month after the official launch without title sponsors and with a relatively modest list of international players, partly because some big names players already had other commitments.
Cricket South Africa (CSA) has budgeted for a loss of 40 million rand (about 2.8 million euros / 2.45 million euros) for the first release of a tournament that was only in 2017 before it was abandoned in the absence of a TV store or main sponsor, resulting in a loss of approximately $ 14 million and the resignation of former CEO Haroon Lorgat.
In Pakistan, Geo Super will broadcast the tournament. In South Africa, SABC, the cash-borne national broadcaster, will cover it. The free coverage is expected to increase the popularity of cricket, but it is unlikely that CSA will receive a substantial fee.
In addition to no title sponsor missing, none of the six teams has announced a main sponsor.
CSA hopes that international exposure will allow the league to compete with the long-term success of similar tournaments in other countries, such as the Indian Premier League and Australia's Big Bash League.
Market manager, former test player Clive Eksteen, said at a new briefing that the matches would be broadcast in India, England, Australia, North America and the Caribbean.
Some international racing players, such as Rashid Khan and English batsman Jason Roy in Afghanistan, will only be available for the later stages that have committed to a 10-league in Abu Dhabi.
South Africa's leading one-day player will miss opening matches due to a tour of Australia ending Saturday.
"All systems go"
But De Villiers is probably the biggest drawcard in South African cricket. His retirement from international cricket earlier this year means that the league will be his only appearances in South Africa's field this season.
In a website article, De Villiers said he "can not wait" for the league to start. "I've worked hard in the gym and the network, and it's all system," he wrote.
De Villiers has been appointed Captain of the Spartans, who will represent the capital city of Pretoria, his hometown. He beat 93 out of 31 balls in a warm-up match against Johannesburg team Jozi Stars.
Cape Town Blitz will be without Captain Farhaan Behardien and Quinton de Kock, their South African racing player, because they are with the South African team in Australia.
But David Malan, the South African trained England batsman, showed he could be a worthy signing by making 85 of 54 balls in a warm-up match against Paarl Rocks.
The league will take place at a challenging time for South African cricket.
With the country's poor economy, CSA does not have sponsors for test matches and two of the top three domestic competitions.
It has been a steady outing of capable players from the country, either on Kolpak contracts in England or in several cases young players who simply try to create a new life abroad.
The league provides a significant incentive for local players with contract fees ranging from about $ 70,000 for top players to $ 7,000 for smaller players. There is also a prize pool of about $ 700,000.
The six teams will play a home-and-away-round-robin league, with the leading team going to the December 16 final against the winners of a play-off between the second and third sides.