July 11, 2012

T&T's legit Champions League gripe

Despite having done excellently in two of the last three editions of the tournament, they need to go through a qualifying round again

The frustration in the Trinidad and Tobago camp is understandable. Last week, when news broke that the West Indies T20 champions would yet again have to go through a qualifying round to get into the group stage of the Champions League, Dudnath Ramkessoon, the chief operations manager and chief selector of the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board described the decision as "unfortunate".

"Being the champions of the West Indies and given how well we have played," he said, "you would have thought we would have gone to the main draw because of the quality of our play and the fact that people like to see us play," he said.

In a perfect world, T&T would indeed have been exempt from qualifiers. But so much cricket nowadays is played in a BCCI world. The Champions League, being a competition arranged by the BCCI, Cricket Australia and Cricket South Africa, has rules unique to itself. For the 2012 edition, the two representatives from Australia and South Africa and all four IPL sides will play in the tournament proper. Last year the fourth IPL team had to play the qualifiers. Not this time.

It could have been different for the champions from the Caribbean. According to the now former chief of cricket operations for the West Indies Cricket Board, Zorol Barthley, the WICB had been offered part ownership of the Champions League - a 12% share - by Lalit Modi back in 2006. Ken Gordon was the WICB president at the time.

"When it was discussed with [Gordon] he was concerned about the maverick Modi and in that regard... I just had to go back to Modi and advise that we were not able to conclude the discussions," Barthley says. "It ended at management level. It was not ever positioned to take to the board officially."

West Indies therefore have few grounds for complaint. But still...

Yes, it is also a fact that Champions League viewership in the vast Indian market is highest when the IPL teams are at play. Coming months after India's Premier League has dazzled its public, the Champions League in its three editions thus far has not done quite the same. Pandering even more to Indian tastes therefore seems the logical business thing for the organisers to do. But still...

It must be irksome for the Trinidad and Tobago officials to be repeatedly paying the price for expediency. For the second edition in succession, the Caribbean champions, and others, are being asked to qualify twice for the Champions League. In 2011, Daren Ganga's team - who stole Indian hearts with their riveting run to the inaugural final in 2009 - returned to the subcontinent having again beaten off regional opposition. They did so without IPL recruits Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo, the same Pollard whose hitting in the 2009 tournament kept the fans in the stands busy and had the Mumbai Indians chasing his signature. Once more without Pollard and Bravo, T&T's matches in the Champions League were spectacles. This time they brought their spinner of mysteries, Sunil Narine. Winning both their qualifiers comfortably, they suffered two painfully narrow losses in their first two games, which proved too great an obstacle to overcome to get out of the group. However, the West Indians left India with reputations hardly diminished. They had brought the flair of the islands to the cricket a second time. They had added value to the series. For that alone, they should have been Champions League must-haves. For that and their record.

With one title win in 2009 and a semi-final appearance last year, New South Wales Blues (eight wins, three losses in all) can claim to be the most successful team so far in the short history of the series. But for games won and lost, T&T are the team. Still, a record of nine wins and just three defeats in two appearances was not good enough to make them automatic qualifiers ahead of, say, Delhi Daredevils (2-2 in one appearance).

Should they become one of England's two qualifiers, Somerset might also ponder their qualifier status, considering they reached last year's semi-final from that very qualifying stage.

Like the boy with the bat and ball, the tournament's owners can make rules to suit their interests. And they have. But will those interests really be served long term? In India the IPL will always be king. However, unlike it and the other T20 money-spinners, the Champions League is the only one with an authentic global spread, accommodating as it does teams from around the cricket-playing world. It is the only club tournament not confined to a single country.

This year South Africa will host for a second time. With enough perseverance and broad thinking, this tournament can keep expanding. There is always the possibility of new talent and interesting teams emerging. Think Pollard, think Narine, think T&T again. By its insular nature, the IPL does not offer quite the same possibilities. It would be a shame therefore, if for the sake of working well-worn ground, the Champions League eventually starved itself.

Garth Wattley is a writer with the Trinidad Express

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Singh on July 13, 2012, 10:16 GMT

    YorkshirePudding: RCB issue is with their parent company facing financial issues and bTW IPL is nt facing those issues. as per IPL rules... BCCI wud nt transfer the tv rights money to franchise until each and every player is paid... in case of a dispute BCCI wud pay teh players with the security money.

  • Jason on July 13, 2012, 9:57 GMT

    @Natesan333, if theres tons of money in the league why are foreign players for RCB not getting paid?

  • Madurai on July 13, 2012, 9:15 GMT

    @yorkshairpudding "IPL will fall in a heap" that sounds like a wish rather than a prediction!! There is tons of money involved in this league, it will be around longer than the both of us. As far as this CL is concerned, it makes business sense for the other leagues to stick around. They will complain, but at the end of the day, they will line their pockets.

  • Jason on July 13, 2012, 4:58 GMT

    @Natesan333, and if all the other teams pulled out leaving only Aus, SA and Indian teams the competition basically becomes worthless as its not a true Champions league, its a tri nation competition. Personally I dont care what the rules are or who owns it, the IPL will fall in a heap, as it stands at least one of the main teams (the RCB) cant even afford to pay its players, so chances are the overseas players may look elsewhere next year.

  • Andrew on July 13, 2012, 3:01 GMT

    I would prefer if the Champ League went something like this - Automatic Main Draw - 2 x IPL, + 1 each from Oz & Safrica (domestic winners), (4 teams) - then the Qualifying stage be fought out by 2 x IPL & (Oz & SAfrica runners up domestically) + winners of all other domestic leagues from test playing nations. (11 teams). Could use some creativity for the 12th spot in the Qualifying round. This would be a true champ league IMO.

  • Dummy4 on July 12, 2012, 23:25 GMT

    If they wanted to make it a more accurate but sstill IPL based reflection on the tournament, the winners of every single T20 league from a test playing nation would get in, so KKR, Sixers, Titans, T&T, Auckland, Sialkot and Dhaka along with the winners from England, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, along with the runners-up from Australia, South Africa and two from the IPL to make 2 groups of 7. That strikes me as being a fair deal financially, and in terms of the potential of the competition for spreading interest in domestic cricket

  • Madurai on July 12, 2012, 21:45 GMT

    @IDS2015 that's my point, in the ICC worldcup it IS a level playing field, India doesn't get special placement. But this is not a ICC event, it is a BCCI event, the other leagues are like guests, so don't complain if they have to wait in line.

  • Singh on July 12, 2012, 21:05 GMT

    @Shuvo Habib... too bad BPL teams are nt in.. i understand ur frustration... dont worry bout T&T.. they are the most popular foreign team in india... they wud win the qualifications and be in the main round.. the players wud get more chances to show their strengths and they are more likely to be picked by the IPL teams next year... dont worry .. enjoy

  • ishan on July 12, 2012, 19:53 GMT

    i agree, its sad but they should not complain insteat the WICB should send a well written Letter with a well established member of the Board to BCCi and have a chat with them and put hese very valid points across. I am Indian and i love T&T and would love for another star to be born. Every one needs to really stop heckling the BCCI and Indian stars they are who they are because of all that they have done and given their fans. We love this game there was a time when the Aussies and the Brits ruled this sport its our time now weve been bossed over for tooooo loooong. So frankly we dont care what the rest thing

  • Kunal on July 12, 2012, 19:07 GMT

    Whatever happens in the world,even other than the cricketing world,start blaming BCCI for every flaw in the world.This CL was started by BCCI,CA,CSA to gain profits.This was not intended for a purely cricketing or sporting reasons.There is no foul play here.The organisers does what seems more profitable for them.It is not an official tournament.If one has complaints,boycott it and start a parallel league.Moreover,playing in this tournament does not add upto the betterment of the players or the teams.Ultimately,the good players plays from the IPL or BBL teams in the CL.Infact,the organisers does play a level field by inviting other franchises to participate.They can earn nearly the same profits with their own teams as well.This is a money game and not pure cricket.

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