Change in Cricket's landscape has been afoot for over a decade, and the pandemic accelerated it. The sport's governing body has long failed to check the reign of Twenty20 franchisee leagues. This lead to Cricket South Africa (CSA) shockingly forfeit its international commitment to re energise its own Twenty20 franchisee set up.

One could be forgiven for not keeping their eye on the ball as it were. Even if it was exciting enough to suggest South Africa is not entirely lacking in the talent department. That is if one takes into account the performance of Tristan Stubbs and Dewald Brevis, even if South Africa lost the first Twenty20 international against England in Bristol by 41 runs.

If there is a feeling of wide scale cloning around the cricket world, much of the credit as well as the finger pointing will be directed towards the largely silent International Cricket Council (ICC), and a very audible Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). But what might make this new launch even worse is that this is the first clear evidence of a cricket board choosing to forgo an international bilateral series. And the governing body has next to no say in the matter.

Cricket has often been labelled incestuous, and rightly so, given that only a handful of teams at any time are able to lay claim to being truly competitive in a global sense. It has thrown cold water on cricket's ambitions to be a global phenomenon a la football. Any hopes on the part of the ICC may have been truly shattered after CSA's decision. It decided that, in the event of a lack of rescheduling time in the international calendar on the part of Cricket Australia, it had no choice but to withdraw its team from participating in the One Day International (ODI) series in Australia in January, 2023.

What's in three ODI series played between two teams, some might ask? It matters from the perspective that by choosing to forfeit the potential 30 points on offer, 11th placed South Africa have lost an opportunity to make it to the top eight teams that will automatically qualify for ICC Cricket World Cup 2023, to be held in India.

It means that South Africa may now have to play the associate teams in the qualifier tournament prior to the World Cup. Here only two teams will have the opportunity to join the top eight. South Africa could miss out for the first time in playing on the level of the World Cup in the sport of cricket if they cannot overcome equally tricky matches against England and India, of the forthcoming eight matches left for automatic qualification.

The ICC would have wanted to raise the profile of the qualifier tournament, but not in the way that the Super League has already been undermined. This is in the context of serving as the qualification process for the World Cup, which is already becoming a bit of an endangered species in the world of 50-overs cricket with the virtual decimation of the ICC Champions Trophy, and minimised ODI and bilateral series around the world.

Players bodies around the world had demanded that the governing body put a check on the mushrooming growth of Twenty20 leagues, looking to emulate the Indian Premier League. One could blame the IPL for this cascading effect on the game and endangering its very existence in its current avatar across all formats. However, even players cannot look the other way, as the money on offer is unmatched in the world of cricket board contracts thus far. It seems that money alone has the say when it comes to the integrity of cricket boards, and quality of the sport being played.

Cricket South Africa, has been through its fair share of ups and downs through the years. It has faced allegations of match fixing and corruption amongst top board officials, and now has thrown all its eggs into the basket of the Twenty20 franchisee league. This is not their first brush with this business venture. They had their own Global T20 version and then the Manzi Super League that broke away from the franchisee system before both bit the dust.

Interestingly enough, there are no transformation targets unlike the national team. There the attempt to address racial discrimination through opportunity and merit has caused ripples across dressing rooms. How this is viewed within South Africa's cricket circles, now undergoing an awakening of sorts, remains to be seen. Though the implications are obvious. With the aim to become the second richest league after the IPL, Cricket South Africa cannot afford to keep its national focus above commercial interests. That much is clear.

Graeme Smith, the former South African captain who was recently appointed the commissioner for the league, said , "this is a truly exciting time for South African cricket; the overwhelming interest shows that the country remains valued in the global cricketing ecosystem. A robust bidding system was followed to select the six final owners, the decision was informed by a scoreboard based on various criteria to ensure the utmost professionalism, independence and objectivity to the system."

That seems to have run into some trouble as one of the former franchisee owners of the defunct Global T20 now believes Cricket South Africa has reneged on its written promise of giving the former franchisee owners the first right of refusal, taking on board all IPL owners in what has been termed a controversial process. Besides, it is questionable where the future of South Africa's cricket lies, if it fails to qualify for the World Cup or shows next to no interest in doing so, costing sponsorship and player interest in the bargain.

But if it is the IPL's twin, it might not even be an issue for a team that has long lived in the shadow of being underachievers in the World Cup. As far as world cricket goes, it would be akin to valuable history going down the drain. Add to that diminishing the quality of world sport, though that has been on the decline in the middle of corruption scandals and controversial player pickings that have undermined the team on the world stage.

Now CSA has controversially picked bids that make it look like a mini IPL, with all six franchisee owners being existing owners of teams in the IPL. The BCCI has thus far remained averse to releasing Indian cricketers to participate in Twenty20 leagues other than the IPL, for fear of diluting its brand value. But there are signs that boards such as Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket are in a hurry to suddenly now give their white ball players contracts that would not only be more lucrative to play first class cricket but also, bind them from throwing their hat into the ring of other franchisees around the world.

What would it mean for Australia's Big Bash League (BBL), which is far from reaching its utopian plans in the shadow of the IPL? What if its own players ditched the BBL in January, showing up in the UAE or South Africa at the same time? How would it define Australian cricket fan's loyalty? Not to mention, eyeballs and the money that comes with it.

It is a rather tricky scenario on the world landscape given that CSA's latest Twenty20 venture will clash with the UAE Twenty20 league. The UAE Twenty20 league is also under construction, and on collision course with the existing Australia's Big Bash League.

That South Africa is already looking to make a name for itself is evident from some of the names it has released as having come on board. These include Jos Butler, Eoin Morgan, and Jason Holder. Will South Africa's recent free agents such as AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis decide to show up at home instead of abroad?

It is debatable whether Australia is too upset about Cricket South Africa's move to pull out. Some have labelled CSA's decision as tit-for-tat for the manner in which Cricket Australia pulled out of the tour of South Africa at the late hour citing covid concerns. But, the fact remains that without the three ODIs, the Australian cricketers contracted with the various franchisees in the BBL, are now free after the Sydney Test against the same opponents to play in the league. Or in a worse case scenario for Australia, play in one of the two new leagues.

In evidence that the cricket calendar is becoming increasingly squeezed for space for the idea of a window for each Twenty20 tournament becoming increasingly infeasible, following the end of those tournaments, players will rotate to the Pakistan Super League (PSL). This will be closely followed by the IPL, the Hundred in England and the CPL (Caribbean Premier League). This leaves international tournaments to be played between September and December, unless the BCCI decides to launch its second IPL as rumoured.

Where does that leave international cricket, even within the context of a Super League, a Twenty20 World Cup or an ICC World Test championship?

It is bad news for the associate nations who have long fought for greater representation. Cancellation of bilateral series in the limited overs format can hurt teams like Ireland who depend on limited opportunities such as those against South Africa and Afghanistan. With the associate teams already having been dropped out of the ICC Cricket World Cup in the fifty overs format despite protests, their exposure has now been limited to being able to qualify for the ICC Twenty20 World Cup.

The problem? The one day internationals. These were once the disruptors on the scene. In many ways, they were the pathbreakers to 20 over and 10 overs tournaments, and have been on the target list of the money generators for a while as being "an inconvenient in-between". Without the ICC Champions Trophy and tournaments such as the Asia Cup either cancelled or revamped, the one day internationals are standing on wobbling legs.

As far as the ICC Twenty20 World Cup is concerned, there has long been a concern that perhaps the glut of Twenty20 is squeezing the concept of World Cup out of context. It is perhaps pushing it in the direction of a football-like scenario of having clubs and franchisee based teams that may be more viable for seasonal fans as well as players, leaving international cricket for regular consumption.

But where does that put the participation of international cricketers under one roof? That remains the question of perennial danger. The World Cups are now in danger of becoming the cynosure, not out of national loyalty or worldwide sports passion, but because there could be a swell of players who might just call the World Cup, even the one as early as the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Australia later this year, their swansong. They may call time on their international careers just so they could take a piece of the larger pie that the cricket boards are now set to gain.

Will the way of a refurbished Twenty20 franchisee league, with the shadies of an IPL, be South Africa cricket's redemption? Not likely, though it could help fill their plundered coffers. It still might not address their brain drain either, even with doing away with the Kolpak in the wake of Brexit. Their World Cup hopes now hang on a slim balance. This does not address that problem. Far from it.

Cricket has certainly come a long way since the BCCI under the Lalit Modi era crushed the rebel league, some would call it the original Twenty20 franchisee cricket, the ICL. It had its share of nepotism with relatives and board members becoming owners of cricket teams. Now the CSA's revamped franchisee cricket is jointly owned by CSA, their broadcaster Supersport and one of the former IPL's COO Sundar Raman. This is an interesting development though it has to be said that it does add a spooky, evil spawn effect to the whole thing.