By Nishad Pai Vaidya
When Mumbai beat Kolkata in the IPL4 eliminator, the bar on the screen indicated that Mumbai Indians had qualified for the Champions League T20 (CLT20) 2011. Thus, one got the feeling that India would be represented by the same teams like last year namely Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore. However, it was surprising to hear Gautam Gambhir, the Kolkata captain, say that his side still had a chance to qualify for the CLT20. I later found out that the Indian Premier League (IPL) governing council is mulling the institution of a qualifying stage for the CLT20.
In the first two editions of the CLT20, the top three IPL teams represented India. The other participants included two each from South Africa and Australia and the domestic T20 champions from West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. The English counties featured only in the first edition and gave it a miss in the second because it clashed with their domestic season and the England-Pakistan ODI series. The Pakistan T20 Champions have never participated due to the events following 26/11 although they were a part of the cancelled 2008 edition.
The IPL governing council is considering a new format for the CLT20 whereby the domestic T20 champions of New Zealand, West Indies and Sri Lanka and the fourth IPL team would compete in a qualifying round just prior to the main event. The top two teams from the qualifiers will then join the three IPL teams, two teams each from South Africa and Australia and one from England for the main tournament. Thus, there is a chance that the fourth IPL team may qualify at the cost of the domestic T20 champions of West Indies, New Zealand or Sri Lanka.
New format raises quite a few questions
Why is it that the T20 Champions of West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka need to play another qualifying round with a team that is placed fourth in the IPL? These teams are also T20 champions of their respective countries like the participants from India, England, South Africa and Australia and should have the right to direct qualification into the main tournament. They have played their respective tournaments and have emerged on top. This is the reason why they should be rewarded with direct qualification rather than battling for a spot with a team that has not even reached the final of the IPL.
There are already three IPL teams participating in the CLT20 which exceeds the limit, in my opinion. The third IPL team was only included to fill in the void left by the exclusion of the Pakistan T20 Champions and the trend has continued as the top three IPL teams will continue to feature in the third edition to be held later this year. Ideally there should be only two teams from India in the CLT20 as the team that has not even reached the final of the IPL gets to compete which is unfair to the runners-up of the T20 tournaments of West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Thus, this third team should also be done away with and the runners-up from any of the three nations mentioned above should be allowed to participate.
The CLT20 was unveiled by the boards of India, South Africa, England and Australia and is managed and controlled by them. The fact that there is no Pakistani representation, three IPL teams participate and that there is an attempt to give a fourth IPL team another chance at qualification shows that the CLT20 league is nothing but an international extension of the IPL. No doubt that the balance of power is in favor of the Indian board but they cannot use it to their advantage in a way which is unfair to the others.
The way things are shaping up; the Champions League does not deserve its name. If it is to be worthy of its name then some changes are required. Firstly, the new idea should not be considered from the very outset as it just shows the power clout in world cricket. Secondly, the domestic T20 champions of Pakistan should be allowed to participate, the tournament would be complete only if they are included. Thirdly, only the top two teams from the IPL should qualify and the third team should be done away with. Instead that slot should be filled up by the runners-up from any of the counties that have single representation in the CLT20.
The Champions League needs to be revamped to be called the “Champions League.” Currently it is nothing but an international version of the IPL!
(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.")