The Champions League is supposed to be a clash of the best Twenty20 teams from across the world. Top sides from Test-playing nations fight for global supremacy and a winners’ cheque of $2.5 million (Dh9.1m). At least that’s what it says on the tin.
The reality is vastly different. There is a qualification process where four teams fight for two vacant spots in the main leg of the tournament.
This year, three teams from India (Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab), two from Australia (Hobart Hurricanes and Perth Scorchers), two from South Africa (Cape Cobras and Dolphins) and one from the West Indies (Barbados Tridents) await the qualifiers.
So we had Pakistan domestic champions Lahore Lions, Sri Lankan victors Southern Express and New Zealand domestic winners Northern Knights fighting to prove their worth alongside Mumbai Indians, who are the defending champions but finished fourth in the IPL this year.
And it doesn’t end there. Franchises with deep pockets ensure star players turn up for their side and not the cricketers’ own national teams; Lasith Malinga and Keiron Pollard being the most high-profile examples, opting for Mumbai over Southern Express and Barbados, respectively. A hefty cheque to the players’ board keeps everyone happy.
And therein lies the fundamental flaw with the current set up. Effectively four teams from India get a chance every year to challenge for the title while domestic champions from other countries regularly fail to make it to the main stage.
Financial compulsions mean sides from India and Australia, and to a lesser extent South Africa, must be there to secure TV viewing figures otherwise the event, struggling to create an identity, will fail to generate expected revenues.
English sides have routinely been absent from the event but following the restructuring of the ICC, which saw India and England cricket boards reinforce their ties, that situation should change soon.
But since it’s a concept largely alien to cricket fans, the only way organisers believe they can create some sort of a legacy is to increase the TV numbers and think about being fair sometime later.
Since the tournament is in its sixth edition and a lot of money has been sunk in, it has to be sustained. Going forward, one hopes that the BCCI, along with its powerful allies, tries to accommodate all domestic T20 champions.
It might stretch the calendar a bit but at least teams who are clearly better than third or fourth-placed Indian franchises will get to showcase their skills and fight for the prize money. They most definitely need it more than the cash-rich biggies.
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