Conundrum Premier League

Ankit Banerjee

When the Duckworth/Lewis method was devised by two English statisticians, Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis, the world was confused about the system as to how it operated. Pretty sure, even Mohan Das Menon must have been wondering, trying to solve this mysterious puzzle. Undoubtedly, the Champions League is a brilliant idea at its root. The businessmen fill their pockets with plenty of dough. Ask Mr. N. Srinivasan (CSK owner), he must be planning to buy a house in Geneva or one opposite to Bill Gates’ luxurious mansion. The top T20 sides around the world lock horns for an International-domestic spectacle. Please don’t dare compare it with Champion’s League Football. If we talk about the craze and viewership, the latter is a runaway winner. Then what is the problem with the newly introduced league? Is it tarnishing the gentleman’s game? Is there a dip in the quality of international cricket?

The recently concluded World T20 was weird to say the least. The initial phase of the tournament seemed as if a middle aged man was enjoying his outing with a virgin teen, and a lot of foreplay, everything apart from the real act was what ensued. I am sure Geoffrey Boycott’s grandmother could predict the teams that would have qualified for the super eights stage two decades ago. The first week was boring to the core. It felt as if injustice was being done with the minnows who struggled all throughout the qualifiers just to book themselves a ticket to face the Test playing nations. They didn’t even get ample exposure at the pinnacle. Then what’s the solution? It would surely have been better if there were two groups with six teams each and two to qualify. Surely, this would have been a more meaningful idea. One, because the competitions would get more intense and two, the minnows would get a longer run in the tournament helping the standards of the associate nations. And you bet – the interest would multiply among fans.
T20 Leagues provide good financial opportunity for a player; it is not unusual for someone to be signed on to multiple domestic sides. One would think that the player would automatically play for their home province. Unfortunately, players have the luxury of choice, and more often than not, are picking their IPL sides over their home franchises. Who can blame them? The prize money up for grabs is unimaginable and you just can’t blame them. Chris Gayle is a classic example of what money, glitz and glamour can do to a game. Players want to ensure their best chances of winning the tournament. For the health of cricket, the triumvirate of cricket associations must come together, and alter this rule. This surely dilutes the passion of playing cricket for the nation. Nationality in the process takes a back seat.

IPL or the neighbourly SLPL is doing no good to cricket, and instead, exposing the strengths and weaknesses of big cricketers. But as they say, every coin has two sides to it; it does no good to international cricket but still it gives a chance to rookie players to come to the fore. A ‘gully’ (a narrow lane) cricketer, for example, gets to feel the big stage and gets the chance to make the most of his opportunities. A few cricketers who have made a mark playing such leagues are Vinay Kumar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Sunil Narine and the list goes on. Then again, it makes foreign players adapt to sub-continental conditions. For example, Gayle would feel at home on sub-continental pitches rather than playing at St. Lucia. It at times, during such lucrative leagues, seems that the cricketers reverse their roles and turn into ‘Page 3’ celebrities. Some young players are bound to get more attracted to the after-match parties and in the process forget their main job at hand. Hence the big question is whether cricket has become an ‘entertainment money minting machine’ which is least bothered about preserving the old English charm or not. At times, we feel would it be unfair to say, ‘It’s the cancer of corruption’!

The Champion’s League T20 has already kicked off and the interest levels are minimal. This is bound to happen because people are still in the midst of the “Gangman Hangover”. Then why schedule a tournament now, is it for money and just money? A Team India supporter, when asked ‘Do you know which are the teams that are playing the CLT20?’; his answer, very predictably, was ‘Who on earth is bothered!’ This league is pretty weird and confusing. IPL and SLPL sides are allowed to field a maximum of four and five international stars respectively. However, with most other T20 competitions, there is a limitation for two. This, hence, gives an undue advantage to these sub-continental giants, as they can field high quality overseas international players. This contradicts the concept of the domestic teams. It may even trivialize the contest, like when the Sydney Sixers played the Chennai Super Kings in their opening game, 14 of the 22 players were Australians.

Whether the other nations are allowed more, or IPL and SLPL sides are restricted to fewer, all sides competing in the CLT20 should have a standardized number of foreign players allowed to play for one side. This could be a way to make the scheme more fair and justifiable. These qualms should sure be settled. Apart from that, we find more teams from IPL and SLPL. There you go – that makes it even more confusing. It seems like we want to win and just win, hence the BCCI having more stakes with the ICC may get the permission to field four teams. This makes the grand tournament a revised bigger version of an IPL.

We love the ancient game and as protectors of Cricket, it is the duty of the apex body(ICC) to safeguard the charm of the beautiful game for generations to come.