As soon as the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) lost the Indian Premier League (IPL) crown to the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), fans of the former consoled themselves by thinking, ‘we will beat them in the Champions League T20 (CLT20)!’ The rules to qualify to the CLT20 are pretty simple. The winners and the runners-up of the IPL get an entry into the CLT20. But just how legal is this?
The other nations to have had representative clubs in the CLT20 so far are: New Zealand, England, South Africa, Australia, Sri Lanka and a few nations from the Caribbean Isles. But there is one major difference which alters the playing field so sensationally in favour of the Indian and the Australian teams. While the teams from the other nations are the domestic, first class teams the teams from India are not. The teams India and Australia are sending to the CLT20 are essentially franchises.
(Australia disbanded the KFC T20 last year and started off with the Big Bash League from 2012. But they are okay, because they do not run any parallel senior T20 campaigns. However, the teams are a bit like the teams in the IPL as most of them have been bankrolled by relative sugar-daddies.)
If the field has to be even, the teams that India has to be sending to the CLT20 should actually be the domestic teams. Baroda beat Punjab by eight runs in the latest edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy. This is the BCCI-sponsored domestic T20 trophy which started a few years back. The teams competing for the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy are basically the teams who play in the Ranji trophy.
The BCCI has not exactly kept it clandestine, but they have not done much advertising for it either and the Indian mainstream media doesn’t even bother to cover the games: or at least most of them don’t (I do remember reading a report between Tamil Nadu and Punjab in ‘The Sportstar’).
But when you have nations sending in the domestic teams and counties, shouldn’t India also be sending only their domestic teams? How, exactly, can they send franchises bankrolled by millionaires who have no affiliation whatsoever to the city in which they play their home games apart from the stadium and the names?
Football fans use the term ‘mercenary’ way too casually these days. A football player automatically becomes a mercenary to them when he chooses to go a club bought by a billionaire, never mind any other possible reasons (like, maybe your club has lost the right to dine in the higher echelons of the league?).
In cricket, Chris Gayle has taken the term to new heights. One look at Gayle’s profile on Cricinfo will leave you dumbfounded. Under Major teams, Gayle has played or is playing for “West Indies, Barisal Burners, ICC World XI, Jamaica, Kolkata Knight Riders, Matabeleland Tuskers, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Stanford Superstars, Sydney Thunder, Western Australia, Worcestershire.”
(Right now he is playing for every team except for the only team that really counts at the International level).
Of course, I’m no one to say that Gayle shouldn’t represent this team, or that. But I’m merely questioning how exactly he is allowed to shift between one league and another every three months before playing the CLT20 with a team he wouldn’t even have represented previously. It’s a bit like seeing Cristiano Ronaldo playing for Barcelona in the Champions League in April after playing for Manchester City from August to November, Chelsea from November to January and Inter Milan from January to March.
When the International Cricket Council talk about replicating something, they shouldn’t go in with a half-baked approach. Why not have transparent player transfers, cup-tied players (if a player has represented a team that year, he should only play in the CLT20 with that team)?
This year, the likes of Brett Lee and Dwayne Bravo will have an interesting decision to make. Brett Lee’s Sydney Sixers and KKR have qualified for the CLT20. Which team will he play for? It’s the same thing for Dwayne Bravo. In fact he can either play for CSK, Sydney Sixers or his country of birth, Trinidad & Tobago.
Conflict of Interest
So N. Srinivasan owns CSK (or at least did own CSK before relinquishing control to Gurunath Meiyappan. Having said that, I’m pretty confident that Srinivasan’s control over CSK is about as much as Sonia Gandhi’s over the Manmohan Singh administration). He also is the President of the BCCI. The BCCI runs the IPL. Srinivasan also holds another designation: chairman of the CLT20. A competition which CSK has already won. A competition where CSK find themselves in this year.
Only one thing is crystal clear from all of this. Srinivasan is holding a lot of designations which directly or indirectly plays into the hands of the franchise he owns. He may, or may not use his power to influence decisions. He may or may not have been directly responsible for CSK’s terrific run in the IPL so far. He may be the most likeable N. Srinivasan amongst all the likeable N. Srinivasans. But it’s high time he gives up some of those designations.
It’s all a bit confusing for me at the moment. But I do know that it defies logic (and perhaps, legality) to have nations, counties and franchises taking part in the same competition.