Chennai Super Kings' early exit would have given MS Dhoni (left) an opportunity to get some much-needed rest © AFP


By Nishad Pai Vaidya


The Champions League T20 (CLT20) 2011 would be remembered for Mumbai Indians’ stunning surge against all odds to emerge victorious. The Harbhajan Singh-led side was dogged by injuries, but that didn’t affect their spirit as they got through to the knock-outs and peaked when it really mattered. This campaign would be remembered for a long time and would rank alongside Rajasthan Royal’s triumph in the Indian Premier League 2009.


In my previous article (Harbhajan, Kohli’s form augurs well for Indian cricket), I wrote about the bright spots of the CLT20 2011. Malinga’s crucial all-round show, the Bangalore-South Australia encounter and various other performances kept us glued to our television sets as watched with amazement. However, the negatives made their unwanted presence felt even as we applauded some fantastic cricket. The negatives that emerged from the CLT20 may not be many in number, but it presented a bad picture which threatened to rob the tournament off the good moments.


The crowd response to the tournament wasn’t very encouraging. Even when the four Indian franchises were in action, one could empty spaces in the stands. In fact, in some of the stands there wasn’t a soul on sight, something one doesn’t associate with when a T20 tournament is played in India. The CLT20 was created to promote T20 cricket and the various teams that compete in the format from across the world. However, it cannot afford to lose its fan base as it is crucial for its survival. In the age where we talk about Test cricket not attracting crowds, can we say that T20 is showing the same trend?


Chennai Super Kings’ exit from the tournament would have disappointed many supporters of the reigning IPL champions. In their first game, Malinga stole the match as he surprised everyone with his newly-acquired batting talent. They were edged out by Trinidad and Tobago in a close game, but were bludgeoned by Dave Warner in the match that decided their fate.


Mahendra Singh Dhoni seems to have lost his Midas touch; his bowling changes and field settings didn’t work for him and CSK lost close encounters against Mumbai and Trinidad. The fortress of Chepauk was breached, and that is something that will haunt the Super Kings’ supporters for some time.


Leicestershire and Auckland disappointed as they didn’t look like the T20 champions of their respective countries. Leicestershire had a fairytale ending to their T20 Cup in England when they clinched the title by beating Somerset. Their whole campaign was built around Paul Nixon’s swansong and they failed to make it a special one for him.


On the other hand, a talented Auckland unit couldn’t capitalise on the crucial moments. As a result they lost both their games by slender margins. A side that boasts of the likes of Martin Guptill, Lou Vincent, Kyle Mills, Andre Adams and Chris Martin could have done a lot better in finishing games within their grasp. In the previous two editions, the teams that represented New Zealand at the CLT20 didn’t progress beyond the first round. Thus, New Zealand fans would have to wait to see their champions perform at the CLT20.


Some of the India squad members for the One-Day International (ODI) series against England didn’t make a statement at the CLT20. Dhoni didn’t continue his good work from the ODI series in England. In four matches he scored just 46 runs at a strike rate of 82.14. One just got the feeling that he batted too low in the batting order which left him with a lot to do. These numbers do not do justice to his ability as a batsman. However, Chennai’s exit would have given him an opportunity to get some much-needed rest and recharge his batteries before he locks horns against England in his own den.


Suresh Raina has always been Chennai’s trump card. It isn’t a surprise that Chennai’s elimination has coincided with his poor run. In four games he averaged just 17 and didn’t look the Suresh Raina who entertains crowds with some idiosyncratic knocks. He struggled on the slow Chennai surface, one on which he has dominated bowlers during the IPL. He would like to put this behind and would be ready to start afresh for his next assignment.


Sreenath Aravind, the new face in the India squad, picked up six wickets in the six games he played. The real problem was his economy rate which exceeded 10 runs an over. As a result his bowling average at the CLT20 2011 was 41.50, not something one would expect from a strike bowler. Aravind’s selection into the Indian team was based on his IPL 2011 performance where he showed good control and wicket taking ability. That same ability was absent and it is a worrying sign for India before the series against England.


(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-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.”)