Indian domestic cricket March 15, 2010

The question of State or Club?

The real problem though will come to the fore if and when the winners of the National Twenty20 are included in the Champions League

What would happen when both Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi qualify for the Champions League? Who would Ishant Sharma play for? © AFP

While the entire nation immersed itself in a predictably swanky opening ceremony of the third edition of the IPL, another Twenty20 national championship kicked off the same day, minus the glitz, glamour and the hoopla. I’m talking about the prestigious Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy - the national Twenty20 tournament which is already bearing the brunt of being the IPL’s poor cousin.

While the first round of this tournament took place just before the start of the season, the knockouts are currently being played alongside the IPL. Even as all seems good in the IPL camp, the qualifying teams of the national Twenty20 tournament have trouble in the making. The domestic teams have to now make do with the not-so-prominent players as the regulars have flipped sides to cash in on the IPL for obvious reasons.

So we already have a situation there with the players having chosen their franchise/club over their state. Ironically though, the choice wasn’t entirely theirs. The question of them missing a few IPL games didn’t arise as states happily fielded a second-string team. Delhi is one of the worst hit with as many as 13 players from the regular playing XI missing. While this gives others the opportunity of representing the state side, it somewhat devalues the importance of both the state cap and the tournament.

But there’s another equally important issue lurking in the background. The team which wins the domestic tournament should ideally feature in the Champions League for the concept of the Champions League is to feature the top Twenty20 teams from different countries. The teams playing in the IPL do not represent the whole of India, while the state teams playing in the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy certainly do. And the team who tops have every right to claim their spot in the coveted Champions League.

The real problem though will come to the fore if and when the winners of the national Twenty20 are included in the Champions League. Imagine this - both Delhi and the Delhi Daredevils qualify for the Champions League: who would Sehwag, Gambhir and co. represent then? Ideally, they should put their state ahead of their club, but I’m not sure if their contracts with the franchise give them that luxury. And if they play for the Daredevils and not Delhi, won’t they be letting the people of the state and more importantly their association down? After all it is the state association which provides cricketers the platform to showcase their talent. Eventually though, I suspect everyone will make peace with the fact that all is well as long as they represent Delhi.

But what would happen when the Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi qualify? Who would Ishant Sharma play for?

Dirk Nannes among others faced a similar situation in the first edition of the Champions League. While most cricketers chose to play for their respective state/province/county, Dirk Nannes chose to play for Delhi Daredevils instead of the Victoria Bushrangers. His decision didn’t go down very well with both the Victorian players and Cricket Victoria alike.

Indian players may be facing a similar situation, if not in this Champions League, then in the near future. Are we ready to deal with this?

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here