October 2, 2013

A rocket-propelled Champions League

It has been an entertaining tournament, so what if nobody in England seems to know it's happening?

The Champions League Twenty20 isn't getting a lot of coverage in Britain. This is a bit of an understatement. The Champions League Twenty20 is getting about as much coverage in these parts as the Russian Monster Combine Harvester Derby (this year won posthumously by unfortunate rookie Oleg Didntswitchisengineov).

As far as the English know, the entire event could be taking place in a little kingdom, hidden among thorny brambles, between troupes of elves and fairies (including four franchises featuring the most popular elves and fairies from the Incredible Pixie League).

If you don't believe me, try this exercise. If you find yourself within the boundaries of the United Kingdom in the next few days, ask a sample of random passers-by if they've heard of the Champions League Twenty20. You'll get a selection of funny looks, a healthy number of head-shakes, a few unwanted conversations about some trivial European football event with a similar name, and above all, an impenetrable wall of ignorance.

The media is no help. Tabloid newspapers don't much care about the tournament, since it doesn't feature Wayne Rooney, sex, drugs, photographs of semi-naked celebrities, or Simon Cowell. It rarely comes up during panel discussions on The X-Factor, and as far as I know, it hasn't featured in the plots of Coronation Street.

When stuck for information, British folk generally turn to the BBC, but if you ask the BBC about the Champions League Twenty20, the BBC will ruffle your hair like a top-hatted, bewhiskered Victorian reassuring an orphan.

"Ho, ho, little cricket-loving urchin, don't be a'feared. There's no such thing as the Champions League Twenty20. An international cricket tournament that don't feature no representatives from Her Majesty's sceptred isle? 'Tis the stuff of a fevered imagination!"

This unofficial, loftily neglectful news blackout is a shame, because the Champions League Twenty20 has been quite good. This year's unlikely successes are the Otago Volts. They were supposed to stand unobtrusively in the background and leave quietly before the main drama got underway.

Instead, they've been cast as "man in tight red tunic" from an episode of Star Trek: thrust into unexpected prominence by the demands of a twisting narrative, and unlikely to survive to the end of the piece, particularly if coming into contact with a) an unknown species of trigger-happy aliens, b) a known species of trigger-happy aliens, c) suspiciously friendly alien foliage, or d) Chennai Super Kings.

My only problem with the tournament is the speed at which it is progressing. While World Cups and Test series are allowed to meander towards their conclusion like polar bears taking rides across the Arctic on an iceberg, competitions involving 20-over cricket always seem designed to grab viewers by the lapels, fling them onto a rocket-propelled sled, and send them hurtling down the side of a mountain with only an occasional 90-second strategy break for respite. The schedule has been more tightly packed than a sumo-wrestler's picnic hamper, and by Friday we will be crashing into the semi-finals.

I have no idea who is going to win, and even if I did, I wouldn't tell you, at least not before speaking to my lawyer, my associate Barry the Benevolent Bookie, and Sergeant Waterboard from the BCCI's Bean-Spilling-Witness Protection Programme.

But if I had to put someone else's life's savings on the outcome, I would go for Trinidad & Tobago. They have already won the trophy for Most Acrobatic Run Saving Gymnastics, thanks to Lendl Simmons and his gravity-defying mid-air six-prevention feat against Brisbane. And despite being deserted by their superstar elves, Kieron International, the Mighty Cooper, and Bravo Major, the Steely Reds are almost certainly in the semi-finals unless something goes drastically wrong at the last minute, such as, for example, a highly unlikely massive defeat in their final group game against the plucky minnows from Chennai.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here