Has Champions League Twenty20 come up a cropper?

Vineet Ramakrishnan

So another Twenty20 tournament in the form of Champions League T20 is done and dusted with and within days another international fixture for the Indian fans is waiting to happen (England in India ODI series). There was a lot of scepticism around the Champions League Twenty20 right from the beginning and questions were being raised on whether cricket fans would turn up for the event especially on the backdrop of a depressing India’s tour of England.

More so after the World Cup, IPL was held immediately and there was lot of hue and cry over the crunch schedules. India went to West Indies in between then landed in England then flew back to India for the Champions League and now England is waiting. If we suppose one calendar year to a day, The Indian team would have worked round the clock, i.e. 24 hours a day and as cricket fans or die hard (Indian) cricket fans one would still be watching a 24x7 news channel at a stretch.

Not to forget other international fixtures where the resurgent young Australian setup got the better of a below average Sri Lankan team. Also Shoaib Malik, now better known as Tennis sensation (what kind of sensation !!!) Sania Mirza’s husband made it back to the Pakistan squad. Pakistan blanked a spirited Zimbabwe in ODIs and T20s in the most unconvincing fashion. But as Indian cricket fan one is bound to miss all that.

Coming back to Champions League T20, like IPL, it was clearly stuffed into the cricketing schedule like paneer being stuffed into every possible North Indian cuisine. The BCCI has been at the centre of it all and as an arrogant brat they have shown all their detractors the finger and have went about their business as usual. It was evident that the 20 day tournament (how ironical for a Twenty20 competition!!!) failed to pull the amount of crowd an IPL match or an International fixture would be able to do.

Just as a causal observation, entire sections of the stadiums where the games were played in were empty and even the finals was no difference. The fact that Sunil Gavaskar and the widely respected Harsha Bhogle repeatedly emphasised the sporting spirit of Chennai crowd in the finals was quite misleading to put it rather politely. The qualifying stages which featured the teams from New Zealand (Auckland Aces) and England (Leicestershire Lions) were played out to near empty stadiums.

So, has the Champions League T20 come up as a cropper? As marketing proposition not all, and surprisingly even in the cricketing front it has done well. Even though it’s Twenty20, CLT20 was able to produce some high quality matches and equally stupendous performances. David Warners’s back to back centuries, RCB’s back to back over 200 run chases. Trinidad and Tobago’s nerve-wracking last ball matches. Malinga’s exploits with the bat, Tait’s five-for, Dan Harris’s ton, class of Virat Kohli and Callum Feguson and the dream final of Mumbai and RCB were definitely the highlights of CLT20.

So was Champions League T20 a flop show even after such great cricket? Unfortunately, it has been a flop show just because of the overdose of cricket. Twenty20 format is like the goose that lays the golden eggs and with the business conglomerates coming together for their share; it could lead to the killing of the goose.

Comparing the tournament to the UEFA Champions League would be a cardinal sin, even thought the concept and the trophy is similar to UEFA Champions League. CLT20 so far has been a pale shadow of the extravagant soccer tourney. Even IPL is far better an event than CLT20. To make it a tournament which could be widely accepted, credibility is a big factor. With the organising committee already under the scanner with conflict of interest, the rules were bent to accommodate certain teams. The Champions League qualifier was evidently played out to give a second chance to a popular IPL team, an extra foreign player was allowed to accommodate another team.

Even the composition of the teams was not equal to say the least. With three Indian team or rather IPL teams, two Australian outfits, two England county teams and just one each from Sri Lanka, West Indies and New Zealand, the odds were clearly stacked keeping in mind the monetary benefits and this is precisely were CLT20 fails and UEFA Champions League scores big time. Also CLT20 need to go global to make an impact but will it go the distance to actually make it global?

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