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What's the point of a one-off T20I?

According to Kane Williamson, a longer T20 series would have more 'meaning' than the one-off match New Zealand will play against South Africa AFP

New Zealand and South Africa are singing from the same hymn sheet. One-off T20s don't have much meaning. There are caveats, and cliches, thrown in - playing for your country, putting on a show, building momentum - but the bottom line is it is hard to stack much relevance on a standalone 40 overs of cricket before switching to another format.

Context to world cricket is a hot topic at the moment after the recent round of ICC meetings in Dubai which went a long way to redrawing the shape of the international schedule. New Zealand are the No. 1 ranked T20 side and while they are rightly proud of their standing, it does not come with the kudos of South Africa's top spot in ODIs or India's in Tests.

"You always want more meaning on anything you play in and if you could extend the series it probably would give it that," Kane Williamson, New Zealand's captain, said. "But at the same time with the schedules it isn't that easy to do. We have a big one-day series after this followed by big Tests, so it's just the nature of the beast."

Both these sides have recently come off three-match T20 series - New Zealand beat Bangladesh 3-0 and South Africa lost 2-1 to Sri Lanka - which gave the players involved a chance to sink their teeth into the format rather than a fly-in, fly-out meeting.

While there is a considerable overlap between T20 and ODI personnel, there are some for who the shortest format is their one international chance: Colin Munro, for example, has been dropped from the New Zealand one-day squad but remains in the T20 set-up.

Imran Tahir, the South Africa legspinner who is the No. 1 bowler in both white-ball formats, believes one-off matches make it harsh to judge a player.

"More would be fair, at least three games or maybe two," he said. "In one game you might get rain and play a 5/5 so another game or two would be nice. Guys need an opportunity to perform, if you have two three games you have a better chance to show what you can do unlike missing out in one match."

The next World T20 is not scheduled until 2020 - the chances of another being slotted in during 2018 appear to be receding - and in the first part of this year teams are focussed on their preparation for the Champions Trophy in England.

"When it comes closer to World T20 time teams tend to play a lot more T20 cricket," Williamson said. "At the same time you are in competition for your country and you want to play well. I think it's important that the T20s are worked into tours and they can carry a bit more weight when it comes closer to the World T20. It's just natural there is more focus on certain formats in certain years."

The growth of T20 has come in the franchise rather than country scene. The IPL, BBL and CPL are currently the big three joined by the PSL and BPL. Later this year South Africa will launch a league and in 2020 English cricket will begin its new T20 tournament.

On Monday the IPL auction will take place in Bangalore. Some cricketers will become rich, others will think they could perhaps have gone for more, some will be left disappointed not to get picked up at all.

Last year Chris Morris, the South Africa allrounder who is part of their squad for this tour, was one of the surprise big buys when he was bought for $1 million by Delhi Daredevils and there will be plenty of players trying to catch a glimpse of their phones as the gavel comes down. Tahir, who was released by Delhi so is back up for auction, insisted that whatever sums of money float around it will always remain South Africa first for him.

"It's somewhere in the back of my mind. The T20 is another opportunity to play for South Africa which is more important for me, I really mean that. Everyone is aware of the auction. I've been released from Dehli Daredevils so I have nothing to lose. I might get it, I might not. But as long as I keep winning games for South Africa that's more important for me."

There are 19 New Zealand players in the auction, including 20-year-old Glenn Phillips who is set for his international debut on Friday but Williamson, who was retained by Sunrisers Hyderabad, is adamant it won't prove a distraction.

"You never quite know what will happen, it's often a hard thing to read - who might go for what - but it's a fantastic opportunity, especially for those involved for the first time. But at the same time it's something you can't control and our focus remains on the cricket we have here."