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Smith cagey on who'll play in Division 1 in Cricket SA's new playing structure for next season

Tiisetso Malepa Sports reporter
Graeme Smith during the CSA media briefing.
Graeme Smith during the CSA media briefing.
Image: Bertram Malgas/Gallo Images

The bidding process for franchises of the new Cricket South Africa (CSA) two-tier 15-team domestic playing structure for next season is underway but details around player contracts and the criteria used to determine who will play in the top flight division and the lower one are still sketchy.

But the details around player contracts and the criteria used to determine who will play in the top-flight division and the lower one are still sketchy.

CSA announced early this year that it has dismantled the six-team first-class system and that the new structure will see teams split 8-7 into Division 1 and Division 2 with automatic promotion and relegation to be implemented.

Director of cricket Graeme Smith confirmed the bidding process and said he is hopeful that all the processes for the new playing structure will be completed in time to be implemented in the new season.

“I hope I am not going to talk out of turn but I have played a role in that. There are obviously other team members running with some of the details of how that looks but the bidding process for those teams is underway currently‚” said Smith.

“So there will be a rollout over the next few months for the bidding process‚ to contracting and the setup.

“It is currently underway. Well‚ if we meet all of our operational targets then I don’t see why we won’t have a new domestic playing structure next season.”

TimesLIVE understands the current six established franchisees [the Lions‚ Titans‚ Cobras‚ Dolphins‚ Warriors and Knights] are expected to play in the top division in one form or the other‚ leaving two more Division 1 spots up for grabs.

Smith lacked details but admitted the process is a “stressful” one for CSA as not all the unions will be content to start the new playing structure in the lower Division 2‚ leaving them to scramble their way up to Division 1 through a promotion and relegation process.

“CSA has defined the criteria upfront and that is why there is a bidding process and all the franchises will have to meet those criteria. CSA had done it successfully before in the MSL‚” said the former captain.

“I’m sure there will some disappointments at the end of this process for certain unions.

“I think everyone wants to be in the top eight to start with but I know the criteria and the team has worked extremely hard in terms of being thorough on what is required from a top flight franchise and the bidding process is underway.

“I think that process is a stressful one for CSA and one that we want to get right and one that we are taking very seriously.”

CSA said in announcing the new format last month that the 8-7 divisional split will be determined by a bid process in which each union will be evaluated based on its performance‚ both current and historical‚ as well as the union’s strategic plan for running and sustaining a professional team.

The calendar for Division 1 will be similar to the current system where the eight teams will play four-day‚ one-day and T20 cricket all in a single round under the new structure.

The same eight teams will also compete in a domestic T20 knockout tournament with the seven teams from Division 2‚ whose season will comprise of a four-day and one-day competition.

Asked how the automatic promotion and relegation will work given that there are three formats and if the new teams will contract the same number of players‚ Smith said: “I’m not going to get into that today because it is a complicated thing.

“It has been defined but I think the best thing to do is for CSA to get it right.

“We have worked closely with Saca [South African Cricketers Association] as well on the contracting structure and the moneys and just the details around the whole thing.”