Having lost both their matches,an early exit looks imminent for the Kandurata Maroons. But for most Sri Lankans,including the cricket board itself,the 15-member squad presently representing the island nation at the Champions League T20 (CLT20) was hailed as their strongest ever-with 11 of their contingent having played international cricket.
This despite the fact that the Maroons didnt exist as a team till two months ago. In fact with the Sri Lankan Premier League (SLPL) being called off after just one season,the country had no T20 team to speak of-nor province or franchise. Kandurata,Sinhalese for Hill Country,had previously been part of the regional competition representing the Kandy region. The Maroons though had never existed and were one of four teams quickly banded together by the Lankan board,dividing the best T20 players in the country and throwing them into a week-long battle royale named the Super Fours,with the winners heading to India.
The Kandurata outfits anonymity as a team,if not in terms of personnel,and the arbitrariness about Sri Lankas makeshift arrangement though in many ways is symptomatic of the CLT20 itself. Riddled with perennial format changes,the highly-billed tournament has been in a constant state of flux. To add,it has never presented a global feel,with this only the second occasion that a team from Pakistan is around. Teams from England have been part of only two previous editions.
Above all,the CLT20 has lacked significance because of the haphazardness regarding the allocation of teams for the main draw. While third-placed teams in certain T20 leagues are accorded direct entry even fourth-placed ones like Mumbai Indians last year-champions from other lands are forced to qualify. What hasnt helped is BCCIs the events major stakeholder attitude towards the event. In more ways than one,CLT20 seems to follow that good old gully cricket diktat: one who owns the bat,sets the rules too. So it is always the IPL teams that replace absentees. And always ensuring that their partners are kept happy,with two teams each from South Africa and Australia allowed main draw entrances.
The CLT20 might have been modelled on the UEFA Champions League. But its hardly lived up to its moniker. And in order to maintain a sense of relevance those in-charge have to make it more inclusive. Award T20 outfits,regardless of where they hail from,a fair incentive for winning their home-grown leagues rather than force them to depend upon the BCCIs whims and fancies.
Bharat is a principal correspondent based in Mumbai