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Missing ingredients: What's stopping CLT20 from becoming the biggest T20 league in the world

FEATURED WRITER
Modified 11 Sep 2014, 00:12 IST
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Top T20 teams from around the world competing for a trophy – CLT20 should have been an instant hit. But it isn’t.

If one moment that had an incredible and perennial impact on world cricket, then that would be Misbah-ul-Haq's failed scoop against Joginder Sharma in the final of the 2007 World T20. That one shot led to India's triumph which was succeeded by a new love and fervour for cricket's youngest version. A private league by the name of Indian Cricket League was established, which was supplanted by the Indian Premiere League. The mammoth hit of IPL led to another concept roughly based on the UEFA Champions League, that would bring all the domestic champions from the top cricketing nations to joust for a ‘champions’ title.

The first edition was planned to be held in 2008 but terror attacks in Mumbai pushed the tournament back by a year. Since the first season in 2009, CLT20 has had suffered major setbacks, with the withdrawal of sponsors and drop in TV ratings. Airtel pulled out from its five year sponsorship deal in the second year. Nokia signed a four year agreement, but it too withdrew after one year. Karbonn Mobiles became the title sponsors  in 2012, but it too recanted after 2013.

Highly India-centric tournament

CLT20 is India centric – That’s its biggest draw and its biggest weakness

The major reason why the tournament hasn't had much success despite the quality of cricket is because the tournament's target audiences are Indians, with hardly any attention given to the rest of the cricketing nations. Hitherto India has hosted the tournament 3 times and will be staging it for the fourth time this year. South Africa is the only other nation that has hosted the tournament; twice – in 2010 and 2012.

The marketing campaigns function with India as the sole focus, with Bollywood stars featuring in advertisements. Shahrukh Khan was made the brand ambassador in 2011. Although these strategies will create a hype for the tournament in India, the rest of the world will have no substance to pay attention to. In Sri Lanka, there have been no advertisements for the upcoming Champions League and most of the fans in Sri Lanka have no idea about the tournament.

Games in which Indian teams do not play are poorly received, since the tournament targets only India. The first edition of CLT20 received an average rating of 1.06 in comparison to 4.1 rating achieved by IPL. The ratings of the next edition, however, saw an improvement much due to the better performances of the Indian teams. The final of the 2010 had an average rating of 3.30, while the matches involving Mumbai Indians had an average rating of  2.11. Two IPL teams featuring in the final of the 2011 edition meant that the tournament ratings rocketed to 1.64.

If Champions League is to become an International sensation, then international fans from England, Australia, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh should be targeted. If CLT20 can win the attention of fans world over, no matter whether IPL teams perform or not, CLT20 would retain the interest of fans.

Other countries should be given a chance to host the tournament which will help CLT20 gain a world wide fan base. Countries like Australia and England with a significant Indian population can be targeted, but that will depend a lot on the marketing activities of the organization committee.

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Lopsided teams

Kieron Pollard led Barbados Tridents to CPLT20 win this season, but will be the captain of Mumbai Indians against his side in Champions League T20.

There is a lack of uniformity in the teams participating in the CLT20. In this year's tournament, Southern Express, Northern Districts, Lahore Lions, Cape Cobras and Dolphins are bereft of its foreign stars, while Barbados Tridents, Perth Scorchers and Hobart Hurricane have only managed low profile international players.

All international superstars automatically opt for their respective IPL teams, leaving their home teams weak. Malinga's absence in Southern Express and Pollard's truancy in the Barbados Trident have attenuated both the teams. In addition to hampering the performances of these teams, these defections also decimate the fan base of the teams. A team without superstars Malinga and Pollard will lose their luster, making their team look unrecognizable and bleak even to their own fans. So when two teams clash bereft of their international stars, without any doubt the game would be boring and dull.

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On the other hand, IPL teams are invincibles with stars from all around the world playing for them. It is no surprise that IPL teams have won the title thrice in 5 editions and that there have been two all-Indian finals.

Moreover, teams from Sri Lanka and New Zealand cannot be considered as franchises. Sri Lanka organizes different tournaments every year, just to choose one team to participate in the CLT20. This will never allow a fan to root for a particular team with same fervour a fan would support an IPL team. Each year there are different teams with completely different combinations which will never allow a fan base to grow. New Zealand's team is merely a club team without the ballyhoo that surrounds a franchise.

When teams with mostly unknown players contest, it can never incite the enthusiasm of fans. That is one of the major reasons why matches between IPL teams get full houses and better ratings.

Lack of Indian players in non IPL teams

It is obvious that India is cricket's big market. So if matches between non IPL teams are to get fan followings from India, then it is imperative that other teams include Indian players. While this may require BCCI to approve their players to participate in other leagues, an Indian contingent in teams can have Indian fans rooting for non IPL teams.

Big Indian names like Virat Kholi, Shikar Dhawan, Ajinkay Rahane and Yuvraj singh are missing from this year’s CLT20 and their participation could have become a reality had they represented some other teams from other leagues.

ICC needs to take control

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If CLT20 is to become an international league, then ICC will have to take charge. The triumvirate of India, South Africa and Australia gives a facade of oligarchy to the tournament, with countries like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka given lesser prominence. England no more sends teams for CLT20 which cuts down the participation of English players almost completely.

There are four IPL teams, making the tournament look like a mini IPL, but the truth is that without these teams, CLT20 would be even more barren. But this has made the tournament less coveted and irrelevant.

If ICC can take over as the head, that would mean all countries would get equal attention with promotions being universal across all countries. Additionally, this will also allow countries to host CLT20, which would expand the boundaries of the tournament.

It is very well evident that CLT20 lacks seriousness and most of the countries do not show the reverence a tournament of this caliber deserves. It has all the elements that can spice up a tournament with plenty of close games and upsets having transpired in the past. What it needs to capture the imagination of the world and rise to the opulence of a World Cup, is to have goals that transcend monetary gains. It should target the international audience so that the the championship can turn out be one of the most coveted trophies in world cricket.

Published 10 Sep 2014, 23:54 IST
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