Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) - the sister concern of the Indian Premier League (IPL) - is once again ready to fight the nosedive in TRPs, half-empty stadia and the cricket overkill that has put its very existence in jeopardy. But by ensuring that the top international stars play for their IPL teams and at least two sides from each of three organising boards in the main draw, the organisers have made a major kill.
There are nine such players who play for their home club as well as the IPL franchise, three from the West Indies, three from South Africa and three from Australia - but the CLT20 very cleverly has a rule in place whereby none of such players need to appear for their home sides. These are Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine of Trinidad and Tobago, who will be playing for Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders respectively; Faf du Plessis, Albie Morkel and Michael Hussey, who will appear for Chennai Super Kings; Mitchell Johnson for Mumbai Indians; Brett Lee for Kolkata Knight Riders; and Morne Morkel for Delhi Daredevils.
According to the stipulated rules, the IPL franchises owning these nine players needed to pay US $150,000 as compensation to their home teams, which they gleefully did, and the biggest sufferer turned out to be Trinidad & Tobago, who are now out of this edition despite boasting of three players from the West Indies squad that won the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka last week.
Eight of the 10 teams are from the three boards organising the event, with nine foreign players playing for their IPL franchise instead of home teams.
Trinidad & Tobago were among the six teams who played the qualifiers that concluded on Thursday. But after losing to Yorkshire (England) and a rained out match against Uva Next (Sri Lanka), they had just two points to show, which wasn't enough to qualify for the main draw. But T&T were left a big hole to fill after Bravo, Pollard and Narine were snapped up by their IPL teams. The T&T board may have made a financial gain but it robbed them of a shot at the CLT20 crown.
CLT20 is the brainchild of the BCCI, who joined forces with Cricket Australia (CA) and Cricket South Africa (CSA) to organise the event. That leaves no element of surprise that eight of the 10 teams are from these countries, leaving the other eight ICC Full Members to fight it out for just two slots. That smells of nothing but bias.
Auckland Aces (New Zealand) and Yorkshire are the two clubs who have qualified for the main draw this year, where they will join Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi (India); Perth Scorchers and Sydney Sixers (Australia); and Titans and Highveld Lions (South Africa).
The main draw begins with a double header on Saturday, with the Titans facing Perth Scorchers in the first match, followed by the 2012 IPL Champions Kolkata taking on Delhi.