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Graeme Smith: Betway SA20 can be biggest league outside of India

12 Jan | BY Graeme Smith | MIN READ TIME |
Graeme Smith: Betway SA20 can be biggest league outside of India

In his debut column, our new global cricket ambassador discusses his ambitions for Betway SA20 and pays tribute to Dean Elgar and David Warner.

Welcome to the first of my monthly columns as a Betway ambassador. Betway is one of the biggest contributors to sports in the world and has a close relationship with South African cricket, so I’m looking forward to getting close to the brand and guiding cricket fans around the world on the sport they love. 


Right now, I’m very excited for Season 2 of SA20, which started this week. As Commissioner, I’ve been involved right from the infancy and can tell you that a lot of work has gone into formulating the platform and the teams are looking extremely strong across the board. 

We wanted to avoid an exhibition-style tournament and have really focused on making sure the cricketers are the best on show. There’s a quality group of young South African players and some outstanding international stars so, from a cricket perspective, it’s going to be very competitive.

We have huge ambitions to be the biggest cricket league outside of India and the No. 1 sporting entertainment brand in South Africa. We’ve got some incredible stadiums, a strong cricketing culture and a vibrant fanbase having a great time in the stands during the South African summer. 

The six IPL franchises that we’ve been able to attract really do set us up well. They are the most successful franchises in the world game and bring an extreme amount of experience – not only on the commercial side, but also with top coaches, physios and medical staff – that will benefit South African cricket down the line.


The clash with South Africa’s tour of New Zealand isn’t ideal, but scheduling is a challenge for everyone in the game and I expect that every year we’ll get better at it. 

Test cricket is a format that we all love. I played 116 Tests myself, so I want to see it protected. I’m part of the MCC Committee and, after our previous meeting at Lord’s, we came out and said we believed the ICC needs to create a fund to protect it for the six or seven nations that play it.

However, T20 cricket is the future. It’s a format that has huge potential to grow into new markets. Look at the strength of the IPL, moving into the US with Major League Cricket and its inclusion in the LA Olympics in 2028.

Cricket South Africa has shown real intent that SA20 needs to be built and given the best chance of success. By elevating 70-80 South African players every season and challenging them in front of big crowds, international broadcasters and top players around the world, we can ensure that the amount of talent to select from around our national teams gets better and better. 


I was at Newlands to celebrate Dean Elgar’s career. He’s always played with his heart on his sleeve and his dedication has never wavered. He was part of our team that was hugely successful and then helped lead the rebuild through a couple of retirements.

He epitomises a lot of what South African cricket stands for. He would probably say himself that he’s not the most talented player in the world but through dedication, mental strength and hard work he has achieved an incredible amount.

I did have a joke with him that he started out with a pair and ended up scoring 4 and 12 on day one of his final Test, but in between he achieved an incredible amount and should be very proud.  

We’ve got a lot of talented bowlers, but our batting in Test cricket is very hit-and-miss at the moment. If you look across the averages, the consistency hasn’t been there. He’s going to be a very big loss at the top of the order for the Proteas. 


The same goes for Australia and David Warner. Those types of players are like an engine room in terms of energy and the intensity.

Having played against David, he was always at the forefront with setting the tone in the field. He comes with an immense amount of experience, travelling around the world and knowing what it requires to be successful playing in other people’s backyards, which is not easy. 

He was the guy that took the game on and was able to apply pressure onto opposition attacks from the word go. He took a lot of the limelight and, when you lose a player like that, the pressure shifts to other people. How that impacts the team is always interesting to watch.

Steve Smith is clearly keen to open, but I’m surprised that Australia have opted to give him a crack against the West Indies later this month.

He’s an incredible player, so you would expect that he’d be able to adapt, but I worry that the new ball will potentially expose him to too much.

Usman Khawaja has had an incredible year, so with him still around there’s enough experience to blood another opener and give him an opportunity to build another partnership with someone new, without losing Smith’s runs in the middle order.

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Graeme Smith

Graeme Smith

Betway's global cricket ambassador who captained South Africa in 108 of his 116 Tests, scoring over 9,000 runs and 27 hundreds.

Graeme Smith

Graeme Smith

Betway's global cricket ambassador who captained South Africa in 108 of his 116 Tests, scoring over 9,000 runs and 27 hundreds.