Needed Champions League Expansion
With the dramatic fall of Lalit Modi, hopefully his tyrannical practice of barring lower-ranked teams from the Champions League will tumble down as well. Jarrod Potter on why domestic teams from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe suit the CLT20 better than the IPL ‘superteams’.
Hard to remember at times that there is a Champions League Tournament about to begin. Sandru and I have been enamoured by the “Australia Decides Nothing” Election from the weekend to now, not too mention the severe lack of coverage that the tournament is receiving. Two weeks from the first match and I’ve barely heard a peep outside of the Cricket Victoria Twitter or the occasional Cricinfo article. The fanfare has yet to start bellowing out as it did last year, but there are inklings of the process ramping up. Victoria and South Australia have started their preparations by heading up to Darwin for a few T20 friendly games; Guyana, the WICB and WIPA are all dancing about each other with a swathe of lawsuits, injunctions and contract negations; The IPL teams have initiated their scorched earth theory (particularly Bangalore) and the rest of the teams are in absolute media blackout. This silence on the tournament will abate once the first balls are struck in anger.
I won’t go into predictions of this year’s tournament, as Sandru has already divined his selections for teams that will achieve something. (You can find his articles here.) My interest in the CLT20 is about future structure. The reasons behind barring some countries from sending teams. We’ve already had Modi stick his neck out in bizarre fashion to effectively rule out English participation (quite a shame too, as Hampshire won a thriller against Somerset; two more quality teams would’ve made the tournament more interesting, but will surely be back for CLT2011), then there’s the cases against Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Pakistan and Zimbabwe seem to have been ruled out for fairly piddling reasons (security, player depth) and Bangladesh was never even considered.
These are exclusions for reasons I can’t fathom. The champions of these nations: Sialkot Stallions (Pakistan), Rajshahi Division (Bangladesh) and Mountaineers (Zimbabwe) all have sides that could challenge the tournament’s higher profile entities. Not saying that they’d win it, but there are excitement packages there for fans to get hooked on and for advertisers to cash in. Aiden Blizzard would have qualified with the Rajshahi Division team, an explosive batsman who showed he has T20 pedigree in his limited Big Bash match-time with Victoria (not playing in the CLT20 due to swapping teams in the offseason); Sialkot has Abdul Razzaq, Shoahib Malik and Mohammed Asif; Zimbabwe has the bludgeoning Masakadza brothers, Prosper Utseya and an upcoming bowler in Tendai Chatara who the world should watch keenly when Zimbabwe returns to Test Match cricket. More than enough in player capability to hold their own in this tournament structure. These national tournaments could entice overseas ‘free-agents’ similar to how the Pro20 in South Africa and Big Bash in Australia have seen internationals come to the party.
So that’s all of the Test nations in a new structure; leaves us with two teams from each of India/IPL (three is greedy and unnecessary as IPL teams suck the fun out of the CLT20), Australia, England and South Africa; one team each from the remaining six test nations. That puts 14 teams into the mix, which is an abstract number that I can’t crunch a finals scenario that works effectively. Would need two divisions of 7 teams, 42 round robin matches then Semis and Final, doubling the current size of the tournament’s length.
The alternative would be to offer up two more positions to Associate teams to round numbers out to a Tournament of 16. This has already happened in some small part, with a Canadian team playing in the 2010 Carribean Cup and the constancy of Irish/Dutch teams in the County cricket season (not in the Friends Provident T20, but this is all conceptual). Offers up the possibility for the lesser nations to also act as regional-keepers of cricket’s quality: Pakistan could invite an Afghanistan team to their RBS T20; Kenya, Uganda and Namibia to the Zimbabwean tournament and so on so forth. Creating more opportunity for players from both lower test nations and the Associates can only bode well for the ICC going forward. Not sure how they’d pick the extra two teams, but 16 is easier to work with in a round-robin tournament than 14. Either that or offer up two teams entering the tournament to some of the other nations such as Sri Lanka or Pakistan. Can’t see that working any better, but I’m open to suggestion on how to pick these extra teams to make a 16 team tournament.
4 pools of 4 teams, 2 Semi-Finals and a Final later makes for a 27 game tournament. That makes for a slight increase of 4 games on the previous structures (the 12 team format of 2009 and this year’s 10 team format). Don’t think that is too much to ask, by my understanding of tournament structure, it would increase the length of the tournament by two days at most. The slight alteration of the format would allow these teams to compete on a stage that they have never fathomed before.
There is no reason why the BAN/ZIM/PAK teams are excluded and on their day they could easily beat the IPL teams or any of the other tournament teams. The ‘weak-team’ argument failed miserably when Trinidad and Tobago smashed their way to the final in last year’s version. They became the fan-favourite (I know I was barracking for them over New South Wales in the final) and proved their merit by being a cohesive unit. This is something that Sandru continually rams home, but I agree with it wholly. You can’t buy a winning team off the shelf for a tournament like the CLT20. The IPL teams fell over last year when faced off against those who had time to learn, train and work together properly. These suggested new teams can add an extra dimension to this tournament, help boost the economies of their respective countries (bringing home $2.5 Million USD would radically alter any of the above mentioned teams and their home board) and would allow their fans another facet of cricket to get behind. The populations of these nations aren’t insignificant, and television rights would be much more valuable there if they had teams to watch. Not only from a financial point of view, but from a fan-perspective, I have more interest in watching a Mountaineers v Sialkot match than Bangalore v Mumbai (which I’ve already seen twice this year).
Put in the extra effort next year to allow the tournament to form as a worldwide phenomenon, rather than limiting it to the bigwigs of cricket.
Editor of the True Allrounder