It's worth trying to get players like MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli playing their final seasons in SA20: AB de Villiers

Despite facing competition from established T20 leagues like Big Bash and Pakistan Super League, SA20 has carved its niche.

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AB de Villiers
AB de Villiers. (Photo Source: Instagram/abdevilliers17)

The first season of SA20, a cricket league that promised to be on par with the renowned Indian Premier League (IPL), lived up to expectations according to Graeme Smith. Despite facing competition from established leagues like Australia's Big Bash League and Pakistan Super League, SA20 carved its niche, hosting 33 matches in 32 days, including a week-long break for an ODI series between South Africa and England.

South African cricket legend AB de Villiers, the official brand ambassador for season 2, considers SA20 the "second-most popular league outside of the IPL." Remarkably, all six franchises in SA20 are owned by IPL team owners, but De Villiers expresses the desire to see more Indian players in the league, although the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has restrictions on contracted players participating in overseas leagues.

Despite the challenges, De Villiers remains hopeful about having Indian cricket icons like MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli in future SA20 seasons. He envisions a spectacular farewell season for them, though BCCI's current policies pose a hurdle.

In an interview with Hindustan Times Digital, De Villiers shares his thoughts on SA20's inaugural season and how it stood out from other T20 leagues worldwide. He emphasizes the unique aspects of playing in South Africa, with its beautiful grounds like Newlands and the Wanderers, and the electrifying atmosphere, particularly at Centurion Park.

“South Africa has a big tournament, which we can be proud of. I think the crowd and the atmosphere is just incredible. And playing in South Africa, in some of the most beautiful grounds in the world, like the Newlands, the Wanderers. There's just some incredible electrifying atmosphere in those grounds, which is completely different to most parts of the world,” ABD said.

Drawing from his extensive experience in the IPL, De Villiers suggests that SA20 can enhance its appeal by incorporating more entertainment elements, such as dancing, singing, and increased crowd engagement. He believes the league is already on the right track in terms of cricket quality and spectator attendance.

De Villiers also highlighted the significance of SA20 as a platform for rookie players, similar to the impact seen in the early stages of the IPL. The inclusion of young talents and the exposure they gain can propel them into international cricket, creating a pathway to leagues like the IPL and representing the Proteas.

While SA20's first season may not have garnered much attention in India, De Villiers believes that maintaining high-quality cricket and improving the overall experience can attract more viewers.

“I think the league can draw more attention just by keeping the quality high, which was as a matter of fact in the opening season, and now it's just a matter of making sure that it gets better and better,” he added.

Graeme Smith's desire for Indian players in SA20 is echoed by De Villiers, who expresses confidence in attracting them in future seasons. While discussions with players like Robin Uthappa and R.P Singh have taken place, De Villiers envisions a stronger Indian influence in SA20, potentially featuring cricket icons like MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli in their final seasons, promising a fitting farewell for these legends.

“I think it would be very possible to get Virat over here. Maybe for his final season, we'll give him a wonderful farewell at the end of his career. I haven't discussed it with any players except for Robin Uthappa and R.P Singh. 

“Not so long ago, we did some work together and I told them it would be great to see them over there. It doesn't look like it's meant to be for season two, but I'm very sure season three and onwards we'll see that Indian influence over there. Not sure who we will get, but it's definitely worth trying to get guys like MS and Virat perhaps playing in their final seasons there. We'll look after them, you know,” he added.

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