The ODI Super League begins on Thursday when England take on Ireland in the first of three ODIs, and the campaign will feature 13 teams vying for seven automatic qualification spots for the 2023 showpiece, along with hosts India.
The bottom five teams will have to attend the World Cup qualifiers with five other Associate nations and battle it out for the last two World Cup places.
Each team will play eight series – four at home and four away – earning points for each ODI won, with each series offering a set number of points as in the World Test Championship.
In a tough draw, Ireland and the Netherlands are the only ‘minnows’ that the Proteas will face, while the only top eight team that South Africa will avoid is New Zealand.
Because of the difficulties of fitting this new pathway to the World Cup into the existing Future Tours Programme (FTP), teams do not play every other country and Pakistan and Bangladesh seem to be most favoured by the draw.
They avoid playing each other, while Pakistan also miss out on clashes with India and Sri Lanka but will play Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and the Netherlands.
Apart from not meeting Pakistan, Bangladesh will also avoid Australia and India, while playing Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland.
“The ODI Super League format was devised some time ago – maybe three or four years ago when the rankings would have been different – but what you lose in the ODIs you gain in the Test Championship,” a Cricket South Africa official involved in the new qualification system told The Citizen.
“It was just difficult fitting all these match-ups into the existing FTP, but the big thing is we now have better relevance and context for every ODI.
“Every game will now have an effect, even those between the lower-ranked teams. This will make 50-over cricket more meaningful.”
South Africa roster: v Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Netherlands.