Champions League needs better selection process
Cricketers from Maharashtra must be wondering what Wayamba from Sri Lanka did to be playing in the Champions League in South Africa. Don’t tell them that Wayamba won their domestic championship because so did Maharashtra. You may want to remind them of the high standards of competition and their obvious lack of quality, but isn’t Wayamba looking like a fish out of water too? So even that argument falls flat on its face.
Apparently, T20 cricket bridges the gap between the good and the bad teams, thanks to its unpredictable nature and small canvas, but even then, Wayamba is looking woefully out of its depth. Obviously, Wayamba is not to be blamed, but the flawed system. Wayamba haven’t gatecrashed the event; they deserved to be there after winning their domestic tourney.
Champions League, supposedly, is a clash between the domestic T20 champions from different nations -- India being the only exception by choosing to put forward the IPL champions. To consider the IPL a domestic tournament of the standard of domestic cricket in the West Indies and Sri Lanka is grossly unrealistic. All domestic tournaments in the world have a fair representation of their states, districts or counties and that’s what makes it the level playing field for everyone involved. In the IPL we have only eight teams representing the country where 27 teams play at the first-class level. And even those eight teams have four overseas players in the playing XI further curtailing the role of Indian domestic players.
Despite having such disparity, you may have to live with it if there wasn’t another domestic T20 tournament taking place in India. But there is one, prestigious at that – the All-India domestic T20 tournament of which Maharashtra is the proud champion. And hence they have a valid reason to be gutted for not being there in South Africa right now.
The flip side to the story makes one wonder if Maharashtra, though T20 champions, yet lacklustre, and relegated to the plate division, can actually prove to be head turners in the Champion’s League? Let me share a small detail to explain how it all panned out. The knock-outs of the domestic T20 tournament overlapped with the IPL, and hence the qualifying state teams released all their key players to play in the IPL. Subsequently, the standard of the domestic tourney dropped massively, which is how Maharashtra, though average, became the champions.
Undoubtedly, if full strength state teams compete at the national level, our winners would not only be worthy of a place in the Champions League but also make waves. Imagine if Delhi wins the tournament? You’ll have Gambhir, Sehwag, Nehra, Ishant, Kohli, Dhawan etc playing. Doesn’t that prospect excite you?
But there might be a small catch in this arrangement too, and i.e. some players might have to choose between state and club. If both KKR and Delhi qualified, Ishant will have to choose the team he would represent at the World stage. But that’s only fair because most players are already facing that tough question. Kallis and Cameron White chose to stay with RCB, Nannes had opted for DD over Victoria etc. So why lose sleep if Bhajji or Ishant have to make that choice?
An easier alternative would be to scrap the national tournament because in any case it isn’t serving any purpose. In fact, to make an even playing ground for everyone involved in the Champions League, there should be leagues like the IPL in all participating countries with similar rules. Because right now it isn’t proving to be the pinnacle of domestic T20 tournaments, as a lot of people are making it out to be.