As the inaugural Champions League Twenty20 moves toward the end of the second round league stage, there must be some very anxious and dissatisfied Indian Premier League team owners on the subcontinent currently.
The two biggest disappointments of the CLT20 in my mind have been the state of the pitches at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi, and the underwhelming performance of the three IPL teams, the Deccan Chargers, Delhi Daredevils, and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
A quick comment on the Delhi wicket: why any administrator, curator, tournament director thought it would be a good idea to re-lay the entire wicket square and then stage a tournament worth more than US$5 Million, and shown to a television audience in the billions, as its first major use is one of the most bizarre and ridiculous cricket decisions I can think of in recent years.
There is no way in the world that wicket was ready for cricket at any level, and the low scores produced at the ground are all the proof you need.
The CLT20, a made-for-television tournament highlighting the extraordinary sums of money Indian and Asian broadcasters are prepared to throw at cricket-driven ratings on the subcontinent, was designed to bring together the best domestic Twenty20 teams from around the cricketing world.
And there could surely be none better than the three leading franchises from the most recent IPL series played earlier this year? After all, the IPL – that other made-for-television tournament highlighting extraordinary sums of money – is the ultimate collection of the best cricketers on the planet that endless squillions can buy.
Or so they would have you believe.
In reality, the IPL teams have just proven the old cliché, that a team of champions is no match for a champion team.
With the League Stage nearly done, it’s already highly likely that the CLT20 semi-finals will not feature any IPL teams.
As it was, the only dominant display during the League stage so far from an IPL team came when the Royal Challengers gave the Delhi Daredevils an 8 wicket hiding over the weekend.
The Deccan Chargers, who won this year’s IPL played in South Africa, were expected to do big things in this tournament given their personnel, but were bumped out of the tournament after the first stage, having suffered two last-over losses.
And yes, I was one who expected big things from them. When I said two weeks ago “If they don’t win the CLT20, they won’t be far away,” I expected that they’d be playing, not just that they also hail from Hyderabad, the venue for the CLT20 Final on 23 October.
Both the Royal Challengers and Delhi Daredevils snuck into the League Stage with only one win each, and in Delhi’s case progression was due only to a superior run rate.
Once both teams reached the League Stage, they’ve only managed one win between them, and that was in the aforementioned game where they played each other.
On the other hand, the teams that have done well in the CLT20 have been the teams that have played a lot of cricket together, rather than an annual gathering of highly paid internationals.
The four teams leading the League Stage – Trinidad & Tobago, New South Wales, South Africa’s Cape Cobras and Victoria – have all tasted domestic T20 success in the last season or two.
Trinidad & Tobago, perhaps the biggest surprise packets in the CLT20, shouldn’t really surprise anyone that they’ve done so well on route to a likely final four appearance.
Apart from the US Securities and Exchange Commission, “T&T” are the most recent outfit to take the abundant cash off the hands of US billionaire Allen Stanford (formerly of the Caribbean, now a resident of the Joe Corley Detention Facility in Conroe, Texas, and facing massive fraud charges). Theoretically at least, they have the most experience in these high-stakes tournaments.
The Cape Cobras are certainly surprising no-one with their success in the CLT20 so far (they’re unbeaten at the time of writing), and with South African stars Herchelle Gibbs and JP Duminy in ominous form, they’ll be short-priced to win the massive US$2.5 Million winner’s cheque.
Cricket Australia would no doubt be very happy with the performances of Victoria and NSW. Depending on the results of the final League Stage matches, the two Australian teams would either meet in a semi or in the Final.
So while these domestic sides are providing the highlights of the CLT20 – which has been an enjoyable tournament on the whole – you do have to wonder for how much longer the IPL can lay claim to providing three teams to a twelve-team format, given they’re not really provincial Indian sides made up of Indian players?
With Pakistan still not exactly fully embraced back into international cricket’s “circle of trust” after the Lahore attack on the Sri Lankan team in March this year, they are the only top-flight cricket nation not to provide a team for the CLT20.
Surely, if the CLT20 is to remain an integral part of the global T20 calendar, then Pakistani participation is a non-negotiable must. The IPL teams could easily be limited to two spots in the CLT20, with the final spot then available to the leading T20 team from Pakistan.
If the IPL is to remain the tournament for the best players in the world, then surely as has been the case so far the CLT20 is the tournament for the world’s best teams?