Cricket South Africa’s SA20, one of the new T20 leagues in men’s cricket that will be happening at the start of 2023, has announced rule modifications that include allowing the captains to name their playing XI after the toss.

Typically in cricket, the playing XIs are decided before the toss of the coin and can’t be changed based on whether a team is batting or bowling first.

But SA20 announced in their playing conditions that before the toss, each captain can nominate 13 players to take the field. And once the toss is done, the captain can select their final starting XI and the remainder of the players will automatically become substitutes.

In another tweak to encourage teams to go for big wins, the winning side will be awarded four points with a bonus-point available to make it five. The bonus point will be awarded to a team who achieves a run rate of 1.25 times that of the opposition. In case of a no result, both teams will be awarded two points, while the losing team will not receive any points.

In perhaps a response to what we saw at the MCG between India and Pakistan last year at the World Cup as well as the Women’s Big Bash League shortly before, there has been an amendment to the free-hit rule, with a bowled dismissal not leading to byes if the ball ricochets off the stumps. The league also said that no runs can be taken off an intentional attempt to run out the batter if a direct hit deflects off the stumps.

IPL franchise-owned teams

The league will see 33 matches over four weeks between six franchises.

The League features six privately-owned teams, all representing IPL franchises, who will play each other twice in a round-robin stage (home and away) before the semis and final. In all, 33 matches will be played in some South Africa’s most popular locations: Durban’s Super Giants (Kingsmead), Joburg Super Kings (Wanderers), MI Cape Town (Newlands), Paarl Royals (Boland Park), Pretoria Capitals (SuperSport Park) and Sunrisers Eastern Cape (St George’s Park).

The first semi-final will include the team finishing top of the group stages against the team finishing fourth. The second semi-final will be between the teams finishing second and third respectively. The winners of the two semi-finals will contest the final. The six teams finalised their 17-member squads during the R125 million player auction. Each team is allowed to field up to four international players in a match.

“We want to play our role in reviving (South African) cricket,” said SA20 commissioner and former Test captain Graeme Smith. “We want to get people into the stadium and cheering again.”

Organisers said online tickets for Tuesday’s opening match between MI Cape Town and Paarl Royals had been sold out. The opening-match combatants are offshoots of Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals.

The Cape Town team will be led by Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan and includes England trio Sam Curran, Liam Livingstone and Jofra Archer, who is returning to competitive cricket after injuries.

England white-ball captain Jos Buttler, who led his country to victory in the T20 World Cup, is the star signing for Paarl Royals, who will be captained by South Africa batter David Miller.

Other key players for the Royals are former England captain Eoin Morgan and opener Jason Roy.

Buttler has hailed the SA20 as “a really important moment in South Africa’s cricket history”.

Although there is a strong sprinkling of England and West Indian players, there are none from India, Pakistan or Australia.

Despite the Indian ownership of the teams, the Indian board bars its players from foreign leagues.

The SA20 clashes with Australia’s Big Bash and a new tournament in the United Arab Emirates.

The tournament, which ends on February 11, takes place during what traditionally has been a prime part of the home international season.

A one-day international series in Australia was forfeited to ensure the availability of the leading local players for the SA20, jeopardising South Africa’s hopes of qualifying automatically for this year’s World Cup.

Cricket South Africa has chosen to reduce its international commitments, especially Tests, with most series over the next four years consisting of only two matches.

Chief executive Pholetsi Moseki said when the latest future tours programme was unveiled: “You might say the programme is light but it was intentional on our side. We needed to make room for our new T20 competition.”

Television rights have been bought by Viacom18 in India and Sky Sports in Britain.

The SA20 is South Africa’s third attempt at establishing a viable T20 league. Unlike the previous two, the SA20 has a title sponsor and a television partner in SuperSport, Africa’s biggest sports broadcaster.

(With AFP inputs)