A league of their own

Spot the difference: The design of the trophy is proof  that the cricket tournament draws its inspiration from its footballing namesake. Images sources: 1 and 2.

Spot the difference: The design of the trophy is proof that the cricket tournament draws its inspiration from its footballing namesake. Images sources: 1 and 2.

While a global TV audience awaits the matches of a mouthwatering second round of fixtures following the eye popping results of the first round of the pan- European UEFA champions league football competition, in a place far away, the fate of the similarly named supposed premier T20 tournament lies in balance. It is not hard to see where the cricket tournament draws its inspiration from with its similar name and a trophy which would pass off as a good knock- off at first glance; add to it an incestuous bunch of winners from the big leagues in the recent years, it makes for an interesting comparision. Alas, the similarities end there- for, the former drenched in stardust and fable from inception, the latter only serves as a hastily arranged competition analogous to an answer for a fill in the blank question shoehorned in the board exam question paper template like cricketing calendar. This is not to say that the aforementioned elusive holy grail of football had figured out its present format in the first try- the present jamboree came to be after many iterations in the format (some involving cup winners, league winners and multiple teams from a league). In spite of both the competitions sharing a common premise, the impostor at the door is a pale imitation of the centerpiece of club football. Here’s why:

Leading light: Alfredo Di Stefano's exploits in the UEFA Champions league made him the world's first football superstar. He played a key role in establishing the primacy of the tournament. Image source: 3

Leading light: Alfredo Di Stefano’s exploits in the UEFA Champions league made him the world’s first football superstar. He played a key role in establishing the primacy of the tournament. Image source: 3

Key question for the CLT20: Would an IPL superstar ask for a transfer to another team for a chance to win the trophy? It is unlikely that a player would show the reverence accorded to the IPL. Image source: 4

Key question for the CLT20: Would an IPL superstar ask for a transfer to another team for a chance to win the trophy? It is unlikely that a player would show the reverence accorded to the IPL. Image source: 4

  • Format worries: What adds to the spectacle of the footballing equivalent is the sense of a finale at the end of the European season followed by the end of season break. The CLT20 tournament itself is too short and does not stay in public memory. A three week tournament with one off qualifiers, group phase and knockout between non- local teams lacks the appeal of home- away matches throughout the season. The home- away format is crucial to drum up local support in the stadiums and this necessitates the tournament to be played in a spread out manner. Since the tournament is young (UCL started at least 25 years after a majority of the first set of teams started playing club football) and the fans are yet to develop a sense of loyalty to the equally young franchises, rivalries are yet to be forged into the rich tapestry of sub plots & narratives of the competition.

What should be the way forward for a tournament presently bookended by cricketing seasons? One way to approach this is to create a common domestic calendar for the subcontinental and southern hemisphere nations since they have overlapping cricketing seasons (similar to UEFA). A downside to this would be that the IPL, due to its financial muscle, would grab all the “big” stars leaving the rest of the world to fight for crumbs. But if the need for playing time for an individual player has a say here, an equilibrium would lead to many players opting to play for their domestic teams, thus helping the development of the sport locally. Of course, this would eat into the international calendar as well but a culling of unnecessary bilateral ODI games would help the cause. Imagine if 2 months of the 6 month cricket season are reserved for domestic as well as international T20 league competition with a home and away format, the spotlight, build-up and interest would build to a crescendo culminating in an end of season finale in one of the iconic stadiums in late March. What would also make a great story is to increase the intake to 16 teams (could be expanded to 32 in the future) for the tournament group phase- Hasan Cheema makes several suggestions on including associate national teams strengthened by a smattering of foreign players – and this would certainly add to the intrigue and diversity. If cricket needs to get a move on from its present status of being a sport with a large fan following from a cozy club to newer destinations and audiences, it has to embrace a franchise based T20 as a vehicle to promote the game as the traditional vehicles of international tournaments and bilateral tours only hinder inclusivity. This is necessary, but not sufficient though; a true cricketing calendar should only use this as a launching pad and create an aspirational value and space for test cricket, which is the only format where the bowlers are more important than the batsmen.

Disclaimer: Some images used are not property of this blog. The copyright, if any, rests with the respective owners.

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2 thoughts on “A league of their own

  1. Pingback: Links: India cricket roundup | paajivspunter

  2. Pingback: Links: India cricket roundup | paajivspunter

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