The Champions League T20 is now an important part of the global cricketing calendar. It is the only tournament involving domestic cricket teams from around the world where the ICC has given a separate window so that all the stars who are eligible to play the tournament may feature in it.
So it is a little disheartening to see a tournament have such low attendances whenever it is held in India. In my humble opinion such a magnificent championship needs some better thinking so that it can avoid embarrassments like vast swathes of empty stands. This is especially seen in India whenever a team from India is not on show and that is bad because this is a global tournament after all.
The way the tournament’s participation is structured is also problematic to say the least. There are 4 teams from India and 2 each from Australia and South Africa. The rest are almost an afterthought. This year, thankfully, the Trinidad and Tobago team was allowed to participate directly thanks to its splendid record in this tournament. This sort of an invitational attitude needs to go. This should be more of a global event rather than be brought down to the private party of the three stakeholders – BCCI, CA and CSA.
Following are certain things, which, if followed, can make the Champions League T20 more appealing for all concerned.
Don’t hold it in a test playing country: There is a good chance that people who stay in the test playing nations will stay away in droves if their home team is not playing. So hold it in an emerging country like the UAE, Ireland or Canada or even Kenya or any other country that is playing the Intercontinental Cup. People in these countries are starved of quality cricket and I am sure they will lap this chance and most of the matches will have full attendance. Also, this will be a great way of making the game popular in those countries and spawn generations of players who would want to be like their heroes whom they have seen in these tournaments.
Improve participation rules: At the moment this tournament is controlled by three boards – India, Australia and South Africa. ICC needs to intervene here if it truly wants the tournament to be a properly representative one. The Indian board is monopolizing the game at present because it has more sponsors but it needs to be made understood that just like the English board before it this is just not done.
Ideally there should be a team from the 10 teams – the winners of the domestic competitions in those countries. This will make sure that no full member team feels slighted at being unable to participate in this prestigious tournament. I am also sure that this shall make the domestic tournaments in those countries more competitive as every team will be vying for their piece of action.
Change the format: The present format of qualifier for the non stakeholder teams is not working in my opinion and does not give any team a proper chance to show its true ware, which is what the CL T20 is supposed to be all about! It could be comprise a group stage of 5 teams in each group followed by the knock outs – semis and the final.
Improve rules regarding player participation: A few days back we saw the splendid spectacle surrounding Kumar Sangakkara and his participation in the Champions League T20. He was in a fix as to which team he should choose. If he went for Kandurata Maroons, his home team, he stood to lose a lot of money and if he played for Sunrisers Hyderabad his allegiance was to be questioned. At the end he chose integrity over money, which speaks volumes about his character as a human being and a sportsman. But the question is why should there be such a situation?
You can blame the player and say that he is a mercenary but given the transitory nature of the domain named sports is it right to blame an athlete for willing to make some extra money and go that extra yard towards securing one’s life? Ideally, the ICC should step in and make sure that players are representing their home teams first. If they are unable to represent their home team then it’s okay to represent another international team.
The way players choose their IPL teams over their franchises is also pretty unfair for the home teams who spend years and a lot of money in bringing up the players to the level where they are considered capable of playing in the cash rich tournament. The IPL teams should also put themselves in their shoes and think what would happen if the same treatment was meted out to them?
The franchises, however, can also not be faulted if an international player is not playing for them in a tournament as important as the Champions League T20 because they pay a good amount of money and that too in US dollars and so they can deduct a certain part of the amount! However, it should be negotiated and the amount should ideally be such that both parties can agree to.