Champions League T20 2012 October 29, 2012

A need to even the playing field

The tournament, despite its many peculiarities, had a worthy winner

When the Champions League Twenty20 began, it had to wade through a sludge of serious issues before it could be deemed credible. Now that it is over, there is at least one reason why it can be called convincing: the best team won.

Sydney's flawless run through the group stage, stunning sneak-through in the semi-final, and absolute dominance as they leapt over the last hurdle, were proof that the Champions League works. To an extent.

Despite the organisers' best efforts to make gimmicks matter more than games, Sydney made headlines because of the quality of their cricket. The tournament was supposed to be a contest between the world's best domestic sides, but that simple concept was derailed by vested interests. The risk of that happening was always high because the event is owned by three national boards and not the sport's governing body. While the BCCI, CSA and Cricket Australia have the right to run their tournament, their attempts to portray the Champions League as representing everyone made them easy targets.

Instead of simply answering criticisms by saying they are involved in a private endeavour, which they can operate in any manner they see fit, the tournament organisers feigned inclusivity. The cynicism that provoked took away from the actual contests, which to be honest, were decent enough.

In this season, Lions, Titans, Auckland, and to a lesser degree Yorkshire in the qualifying stage, all impressed. They evened out the imbalance by knocking out the IPL teams before they had found their feet, and only the best of the four Indian sides, Delhi Daredevils, survived. What that did to the financial model of the tournament can only be gleaned from how the organisers reacted to the threat of a Delhi exit.

At the last moment, a reserve day was added to the schedule for the semi-finals. There was rain predicted for the semi-final between Delhi and Lions in Durban, where two matches had already been rained out. A washout would have given Delhi no chance of progress because Lions had more wins. Reading between the lines, it can only be assumed that the organisers wanted to do everything in their power to give the only remaining IPL team as much chance as they could of making the final. That, by their own admission, is how the tournament makes money.

Both semis took place without incident, and even the final, which looked likely to be interrupted by showers, did not have a drop of rain. However, it is worth noting that no reserve day was set for the final. That may have been because the window given to the Champions League does not allow for an extra day to be added at the end, or it may have been because none of the moneymaker teams was involved.

There were other oddities in the last three matches. At Supersport Park, a fortress for Titans, Sydney were named the home team. It was awkward for the real home team, but fair, because Sydney had topped their group while Titans were second in their pool. All it meant was that Sydney got to occupy the home dressing room and Brad Haddin tossed the coin.

The tournament was supposed to be a contest between the world's best domestic sides, but that simple concept was derailed by vested interests. The risk of that happening was always high because the event is owned by three national boards and not the sport's governing body

That rule was not applied in the final, though. Sydney were the team with more wins and should, by all logic, have been the home team. Instead, Lions were given that right, and got to sit where they always do at the Wanderers, and Alviro Petersen tossed the coin. These are small things that may not have any bearing on results, but they point to inconsistencies that were prevalent through the tournament.

The qualifying phase was introduced last season as a way to include an extra IPL team. It was expanded this time, but none of the four IPL sides were required to take part in it. However, the best T20 sides from New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, West Indies and England had to. It was impossible to say whether the best of the lot advanced to the main draw, because six teams simply did not play enough. Sialkot Stallions, Uva Next, Hampshire and Trinidad & Tobago were eliminated after playing only one match apiece.

If the IPL teams proved one thing, it is that teams needed time to adjust to the conditions. All of them, except Delhi, who played in a derby, lost their first matches. Kolkata Knight Riders lost their first two but, like Chennai Super Kings, came back to win their next one. Mumbai were the only IPL side to leave without a victory but even they had caught up with the conditions by the time they exited.

On early-season pitches in a summer that looks set to be wetter than usual, the sight of batsmen playing the pull too early was a common one. Auckland's batsmen, who had been training in the country from September 22, the two local teams, and Sydney were exceptions, but that does make for an easy argument that the IPL teams underperformed. By the end, which was not that far away from the beginning, they looked ready and did compete as expected.

The decision to host the tournament in South Africa was made for logistical reasons but it proved to be a good one from a conditions perspective too. Aside from some rain, the matches were eventful because the pitches assisted the bowlers. In a format where everything seems set up for batsmen, it was refreshing to see the ball dominate for a lot of it.

Already talk has begun that the 2014 competition will come back to South Africa. India are set to handle next year's competition, and Australia have been ruled out of hosting because of their time zones. South Africa's shareholding is set to increase as well, and they seem to have become default hosts.

By then, hopefully one of two things would have happened: the competition will have become what it proclaims to be, an actual league of champions; or the organisers will have developed the gumption to call it what it really is - their competition, which they will run as they please.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on November 1, 2012, 0:35 GMT

    @JG2704 on (October 31 2012, 08:59 AM GMT) - re: SO'K (again). IMO - he is stats are probably slightly flattering, as I think Lyon has far more loop & drift. Yet Lyon is technically 50% worse (on averages) in the Shield than SO'K! How that happens - its got me stumped? I think he is worth a look & really now that Holland is injured & Boyce not quite ready - he & Hauritz should be the next spinners in line to cover Lyon. So technically - if you were to say that our 3-best spinners are Lyon, Hauritz & SO'K - Oz are fairly well placed. Most Ozzys have their fingers crossed that Boyce (a leggie) kicks on - he has promise, but he struggles to get a game behind pacers in Cutting, McDermott, Feldman & then Hauritz, (not to mention a return from injury for Harris).

  • Andrew on November 1, 2012, 0:27 GMT

    @ JG2704 on (October 31 2012, 08:59 AM GMT) - re: SO'K - he is the biggest conundrum in Ozzy cricket at the moment (IMO)! On one hand, he has the most outstanding Shield bowling averages of any spinner - period! He was selected to play against England A during the Ashes @ Hobart. He scored a 50 & took 3 or 4 wickets (bearing in mind it was Englands best top 7 playing). Theoretically, he SHOULD of been the next in line to replace Doherty, (if you go along the lines that our selectors had old-timers disease & forgot about Hauritz) - then Beer came from nowhere - thanks to Warney, (he's never met a spinner he didn't like!). SO'K has had a couple of cameos in the Oz T20 side, but otherwise is INVISIBLE. The negative things are - he had a disrupted domestic season last year & was captain of an underperforming NSW team & he only averages 81 balls a FC game - which is less than half what most frontline spinners bowl in Oz.

  • Dummy4 on October 31, 2012, 16:02 GMT

    wasted such a good idea of world cricket club tournament depending on Indian viewers . Solution is simple 1. Make is a real club world cup ( Invite only champions of all countries and Runners up from past year semifinalist countries every year ) 2. Or name it as IPL 2 and play another IPL

  • Bilal on October 31, 2012, 12:17 GMT

    they need to tweek it ... only invite the champion teams.. no runnerups should be in this tournament

  • John on October 31, 2012, 8:59 GMT

    @Meety on (October 30 2012, 20:40 PM GMT) I'm with you on this argument although I don't think the guy is bemoaning that Starc chose his home side. I used to believe it was the players choice but as a poster on here pointed out it's often the IPL sides have the power which is sad as I always believe the player should play for his home country's reps above anyone else. I'm sure there will be huge IPL interest in some of the Aus players but esp Starc and SS should be advising his advisers to make sure if he goes to an IPL side , if both SS (I think they'd qualify automatically as winners) and (provided he plays IPL and the side he plays for qualifies) then he is contracted for SS for the next one. BTW why did Mckay not get a game in the WC. Thought the Oz pacers worked better than the spinners? Also how does O Keefe usually go?

  • John on October 31, 2012, 8:59 GMT

    @ voice_of_reason on (October 30 2012, 08:47 AM GMT) In football these country's sides are allocated more sides because of their success in the competition. I know that Spain/Italy and England have had the most successful club sides over the years and I reckon (without looking) in the last decade there was only one side from outside those countries (Porto under Jose) who won it. Eng I think had 3 clubs for a while but were allocated 4 in the early 00s. It's not technically true that these countries are allocated more clubs because of their wealth but because of their club success (which is because of their wealth) which is similar I guess

  • kp on October 31, 2012, 5:35 GMT

    i think Clt20 should be like soccer champions league, i think all test playing countries..should participate, home and away format.. every trip should have 3 or 4 matches..i know its difficult.. thats a good idea indeed

  • Ayush on October 31, 2012, 5:27 GMT

    @ PanGlupek agreed and when we look at results 2 teams from India and 2 from Australia....If I am not wrong...As for an non IPL team winning. Absolutely it is definitely an achievement....maybe if they allowed Indian players to play as foreign nationals in these leagues...publicity would not be such a big problem...but here we are...

  • a on October 31, 2012, 0:46 GMT

    The tournament can't be taken seriously as a proper sporting event. T&T without Pollard, Narine, Bravo is not a champion team. The odds are stacked against them right from the start. So, why call it a Champion team, when their main guys are not playing for them. Team composition rules need to be changed. If that can't be done, then lets just stick with the IPL. Firdose, please do some more analysis.

  • Dummy4 on October 30, 2012, 22:49 GMT

    This tournament should have have had a qualifying stage. It is unfair for teams like Sailkot, Trinidad and Tobago,Hampshire and Uva to play only one game and be knocked out. This is not a proper way for selecting the best team of the world.Trinidad once made it to the Finals. I will stop watching if they continue to have a qualifying phase.

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