Cricket South Africa is to give its full support to a proposed southern hemisphere, IPL-style, Twenty20 competition to be launched by 2009. The proposal is still in the exploratory stage.

This was announced in Johannesburg on Friday by CSA CEO Gerald Majola. He said that both the other major cricketing powers in the southern hemisphere had shown a strong interest in the concept.

“Cricket South Africa is keen to forge strong partnerships with Boards around the world to ensure the continued growth of the game at various levels. While details of this new competition still need to be finalized, we are confident it will give cricket in South Africa a major boost, and will ultimately change the cricket landscape in our country.

“Market research has shown that the shortened form of the game is a major hit with sports fans, and we are keen to explore ways in which we can build on that enthusiasm. Over the past year, T20 cricket has taken off on an unprecedented scale and has given cricket a unique opportunity to expand the game on a global scale and also to attract a far wider audience.

“The T20 game has not only changed the way that limited overs cricket is played but has turned cricket into a major player in the entertainment industry that fits in perfectly with the modern frenetic, colourful and glitzy way of life.”

This proposed initiative is a joint venture between CSA, Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket and will take the form of a regional T20 contest built on city-based, franchise-owned teams. This is identical to the successful format used for the Indian Premier League which has revolutionised opportunities for players in the domestic game.

The regional-level T20 format is set to fuel the development of a bigger pool of elite cricketers, making cricket a more attractive career option for young gifted athletes. In the South African context this is particularly significant as it will provide the opportunity for CSA to keep their best emerging talent at home with the appropriate rewards it will be able to offer rather than lose them to the financial benefits of the England county championship.

The format of the new competition will see two separate conferences, one domiciled in Africa and the other in Australasia with the top teams in each conference playing off in the final.

There is also a strong possibility of involvement of players from countries outside of the southern hemisphere being signed up for franchises. In this regard the timing of the event would complement IPL timing, creating opportunity for Indian players to participate.