The Champions League is not truly representative of the champion teams because it has different set of rules for Indian teams and another for foreign teams. The clout of the BCCI is obvious, but it’s a ticking time bomb and the Indian cricket board better watch out, cautions Nishad Pai Vaidya.
The Auckland Aces of New Zealand and the English side Yorkshire Carnegie have stormed through to the main draw of the Champions League T20 (CLT20). With a dominating performance in the qualifying stages, the two sides have effectively eliminated the T20 champions from England, Pakistan, West Indies and Sri Lanka. Looking at the number of champions exiting the tournament only two days into it, it does beg the question: Does the CLT20 create a level playing field for the champions from different countries? A closer inspection would reveal that the answer is a resounding no.
The CLT20 was meant to create a platform whereby the T20 champions from various countries would come and battle for the coveted title. The concept is along the lines of the popular UEFA Champions League – a competition where some of the best European football teams contest. However, the format employed for cricket’s version of the battle of the clubs leaves a lot to be desired. It doesn’t present the teams with equal opportunities for a shot at the title and is completely dominated by the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises. As discussed in previous articles, the CLT20 is nothing but an international extension of the IPL.
Firstly, one must ask the question: Why are the IPL teams given an undue advantage at the CLT20? There are four of them in the competition – two more than the maximum participation from other countries. While South Africa, Australia and England are represented by their respective champions and runners-up, only the champions from Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Pakistan and West Indies were given an entry. On the other hand, Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils – teams who didn’t make it to the IPL final find themselves in the main league!
Secondly, it is bizarre as to why the teams have to play a qualifying stage before making it into the main draw. Teams like Trinidad and Tobago, Sialkot Stallions and Uva Next are champions in their own right and deserve a direct entry into the main round. Instead, Mumbai and Delhi are direct entrants without even having silverware to show in their cabinet. The only positive when compared to the previous edition is that a team from Pakistan has been allowed participation.
Thirdly, Mumbai may have been champions the last time around, but shouldn’t have been given allowed a direct entry into the main round. The winners of the inaugural edition New South Wales failed to make it to the finals of their national T20 league the next season and didn’t qualify for the CLT20. However, they weren’t given an entry just because they were the champions of the previous edition. South Australia and Victoria turned up for the 2010 edition and New South Wales had to wait till 2011 for another shot at the title. Why are the rules being changed when an IPL team is involved?
The format for the qualifying stage is clearly flawed. A team that works hard through the domestic season has one bad day at the CLT20 and has to face elimination. Also, a team that plays the first game has a distinct advantage over those waiting for their chance. For example, Yorkshire won their first game against Uva on Tuesday and then faced Trinidad in their second game. The West Indian side had to win to keep their hopes alive, while Yorkshire’s fate wasn’t completely dependent on this game.
Trinidad and Tobago are a side that has entertained in previous CLT20s and are unfortunate to have lost out this time around. In the inaugural edition, they had a remarkable run through to the finals and were the most popular side of the competition. What is interesting is that they always tend to produce remarkable players – who later fall prey to the IPL franchises and don’t turn up for their home side at the CLT20. Their case proves that such teams deserve to be given an equal footing when compared to the teams given a preference as one never knows how they may perform. It is shameful that the one-time finalists have to go through a qualification round to prove their status even after they have been crowned champions in the West Indies.
Keeping all these arguments in perspective, the name “Champions League” is a misleading. The real champions aren’t given their due even as some of the lesser deserving teams get an upper hand. The clout of the Indian board is obvious and it wouldn’t be long before such moves unnerve other governing bodies around the world. They may be the major stakeholders in the tournament, but cannot go on creating norms to suit themselves. It is a ticking time bomb and the BCCI better watch out.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_