Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The most insignificant tournament

Many players and also analysts have complained that the schedule these days is too tight for the players with too many matches for them to play in a year. With the introduction of T20 cricket, things got worse with the organisers finding it too easy to schedule several matches over a short period of time. While T20 certainly is a good concept, too much of anything is harmful, under any circumstances. Every domestic structure needs a tournament for each format of the game, T20 has gone a little beyond that.

Champions League T20 – where top teams from each test playing nation play in one tournament organised by BCCI (sole organiser – de facto), CA and CSA and the supposed champion of champions is decided. Back in 2009, when the Indian Premier League (IPL) was moved to South Africa due to the general elections in 2009, there were several fans in the internet who expressed their desire to witness two IPLs per year, one in India, one abroad. Their wishes were answered with a T20 tournament being organised in India in 2009. The tournament had a lot of hype, especially when the previous one was cancelled owing to the 26/11 Mumbai attack.

The empty stands

T20 is seen as a format enjoyed by anyone, even those who don't watch cricket regularly. I have heard many people say, 'I don't follow cricket but I do watch the IPL'. But the tournament was hit hard, when statistics suggested that more people followed the ICC Champions Trophy than the CL T20. It was a big blow to the tournament at the very moment when some writers started contemplating the slow death of the 50 over format. Some justified it saying that maybe it was because teams from the IPL went out early.

However, when the tournament had little success the following year, when it was moved to South Africa, the organisers decided to introduce a qualifying round the following year in the name of encouraging more teams from other countries but in reality, it was a gimmick made in order to qualify another IPL team thereby creating a pseudo-IPL with 40% of the teams in the main roster being from IPL and to facilitate the IPL teams, Mumbai Indians were allowed to use 5 foreigners in the playing level due to a supposedly extraordinary situation and Royal Challengers Bangalore were allowed to use both, Dirk Nannes and Chris Gayle, where latter was supposed to be the Nannes' replacement in IPL IV. It went one step further, during the current edition, where the fourth Indian team was also allowed direct qualification, by virtue of Mumbai Indians being the defending champions. Even during the CLT20 this year, the presence of an Indian team in the final was seen as important, where a reserve day was in schedule for the Delhi Daredevils versus Highveld Lions semi-final but there were no reserve days for the second semi-final or the final.

This tournament is mainly followed only in India and is also scheduled during the prime hours of Indian television viewing. Being an 'international' tournament, two editions of the tournament has taken place in South Africa and both of them, were scheduled so perfectly to suit the Indian Standard Time. That is the reason why the tournament is yet to be scheduled in Australia, where such scheduling might look awkward to the locals and it is a tournament CA themselves don't bother about – which was evidently seen when they decided to recall their key player, Shane Watson from the Sydney Sixers and in my opinion, that was also the correct decision.

This is a failed imitation of the most prestigious European Club football tournament – UEFA Champions League. It is partly because of the huge power imbalance, with teams from Australia and India being too strong which the teams from not so commercial leagues such as the English teams aren't able to cope with. While it is true that strong teams in Champions League too are mainly only from Western Europe with Russia being the only emerging nation from the east, the knockout matches are of utmost quality and football fans from South and South East Asia would know best, that it is worth watching at the cost of your sleep whereas I wonder whether even Indians would consider such a drastic step for watching a CLT20 game. When it comes to winning the UEFA Champions League, fans are willing to pardon the team's awful performance in the league (eg – Chelsea's 2012 victory) but till date, Mumbai Indians fans have just been talking about their poor performance during the knockout stages of the IPL, totally ignoring their CLT20 victory in 2011.

Most football fans are at least aware of the top 4 positions in other major leagues but same is not the case with cricket, where most of them aren't aware of the teams participating even one week before the tournament is scheduled to start and that is true in my case as well – personally, I only follow the Big Bash League and by virtue of being a resident in India, I'm well aware of the IPL but I haven't the faintest idea on what is going on in the other leagues but when it comes to football, I follow the BPL but I'm also aware of standings in Spain, Italy, France and Germany. CLT20 has gone to the extent of even copying the structure of the UEFA Champions League trophy as shown in the picture below. This tournament is somewhat similar to the FIFA Club World Cup organised in football and we all know, to what extent fans around the world bother about the Club World Cup.

The idea of the tournament was flawed from the outset and after four years, it doesn't take a genius to realise how insignificant this whole fiasco is. It has to be scrapped, to avoid this colossal waste of time and money and also for the betterment of the cricket. Time to start concentrating on the real cricket, that is, the upcoming Australia's tour of South Africa and also England's tour of India.

Have a nice day,

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