Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith has been appointed the lead of the country’s new franchise-based T20 league, which is scheduled to begin in January 2023. Smith has been put in charge of all aspects – “both cricketing and non-cricketing” – of the tournament, which is being viewed as crucial to the long-term sustainability of the game in South Africa.
One of Smith’s first responsibilities, according to a Cricket South Africa (CSA) statement, is to confirm the participating franchises in the tournament. ESPNcricinfo reported on Tuesday that all six of the teams in CSA’s T20 league had been bought by owners of IPL franchises.

“I’m extremely honoured to be entrusted with leading this exciting new venture,” Smith said. “I’m excited by the opportunity to deliver the new league which I believe will be an extremely competitive product, one that can bring the much-needed investment into the game and provide new opportunities for players around the world and more importantly to our SA home grown talent.

“The response from stakeholders has been very positive thus far and we’ve made great progress in the initial stages. We’re determined to deliver a valuable, sustainable and appealing tournament for South African cricket.”

This is Smith’s second administrative association with CSA after he worked as their Director of Cricket (DOC) from December 2019 to March 2022. Smith chose not to reapply for the role, and his tenure ended with an arbitration process during which he was found not guilty of engaging in racially prejudicial conduct over his hiring of former South Africa wicketkeeper Mark Boucher as the men’s national head coach over Enoch Nkwe; the non-selection of wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile during his playing days; and an alleged refusal to work with former CSA CEO Thabang Moroe, who is black.

Smith was in the job during the Covid-19 pandemic and masterminded South Africa’s return to action with a three-team exhibition match in July 2020, when the controversy over how they were going to show support for anti-racism began. At first South Africa’s players indicated they were not going to take the knee, but then everyone involved in the match did. That set in motion the Social Justice and Nation Building commission, which culminated with disciplinary charges being brought against Boucher, and then dropped.

Smith’s time as DOC coincided with a tense and racially-charged period for South African cricket, but also produced some of their best on-field results. The men currently top the World Test Championship points table while the women’s team has qualified for the semi-finals of successive ICC events.

Smith’s relationship with the BCCI also ensured that CSA hosted a profitable series against India in the previous home summer, and the board hopes he will be able to produce a similarly successful T20 league.

“I worked closely with Graeme during his role as DOC and believe he is the perfect candidate to lead this new chapter of South African cricket,” CSA CEO Pholetsi Moseki said. “His expert understanding of the local and international cricketing environment will ensure the League delivers a thrilling product that will change the face of South African cricket for the better.”