Champions League T20 was a joint initiative taken up by the cricket boards of India, Australia and South Africa in an attempt to crown the ultimate T20 world champion among the domestic teams from all over the world. Quite ambitious, one can say and rightly so, it was supposed to be a very special initiative. It was so because it was the first attempt to give domestic T20 tournaments around the world some context. Context, in the sense that every year, the said country hosts a tournament with the winner defending it again in the next edition and the next and so on. There was no point in it beyond the fact that they win it and try to win it again next year. It was not international cricket in which the World Cup happens every half a decade (4 years) and is thus of supreme relevance simply because of it's scarcity. So, CLT20 made it more of domestic World Cup. Hence their marketing tagline "Clash of the Champions". Rightly so, it could have been very special.
But, in reality, it was a poorly run league. Hence, the low financials and its ultimate demise. Various reasons can be attributed to it:
I. The first edition was cancelled due to 26/11 attacks in Mumbai in 2008
The ultimately-canned 1st edition had quite a buzz, atleast in the minds of Indian cricketing fans as the game-changing and ever popular first edition of Indian Premier League (IPL) had just ended and its champions and runner-ups, Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings, respectively were invited to face off with teams from Australia, South Africa, Pakistan and England. It was fair, short and had limited scope but the buzz was certainly there and fans couldn't wait to see how cricket emulates football's one of the most prestigious tournaments to date. But unfortunately, a far greater tragedy occurred in Mumbai in the form of 26/11 attacks which led to the postponement of the never-to-be-1st edition and the kind of buzz it had was never replicated.
II. Biased towards Indian teams because BCCI had a majority stake
The eventual first edition in 2009 had 3 IPL teams, 2 each from Australia, England and South Africa as a well as 1 each from West Indies, Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Moreover, the 3rd IPL team was invited simply because they couldn’t invite a Pakistiani team because of political tensions, which seems fair to be honest; but from 2011, four Indians teams were invited and while winners, runnerups and 3rd placed Indian teams qualified directly to the main tournament, champions from West Indies, New Zealand, England, Sri Lanka were made to play a qualifier with yet another IPL team. It became so biased towards Indian teams that it lost it’s international audience.
Even a team like Trinidad & Tobago from West Indies which played so wonderfully well in the earlier editions (including finishing runner-ups in 2009) failed to reach the main league and ultimately, CLT20 became an extension of IPL.
III. Always hosted by India
The tournament was more or less always hosted by India. Out of its planned 10 editions, at least 6 were to be contractually (with Star Sports) hosted by India. And out of the 6 tournaments which actually happened before it was cancelled in 2014, four were hosted by India and the other two by South Africa (which too was only because of elections in India or non-availability of required security in stadiums due to said elections or other reasons). Again, losing its international audience.
IV. Not much international representation
A team from Pakistan wasn’t invited until the 2nd last edition i.e. Sialkot Stallions, which were considered as the best domestic T20 team around the world at the time, and that too was an invitation to only play the Qualifier. And that they crashed out in the qualifier itself was an insult to injury.
The absence of teams from Zimbabwe or Bangladesh (despite having a full fledged Bangladesh Premier League) hurt its international presence.
No associate nations were invited either.
English teams weren't very keen on participating as well.
V. Players qualifying for more than one team
There were various instances where a player qualified for more than 1 team and was more often than not forced to chose between an IPL team and his home country team. In the earlier editions, IPL contracts included a clause that if their team qualifies, they would be forced to play for them and not the home team. Later, 20% fees was deducted if they refused to play for the Indian teams. Finally, a reward of US 200,000$ was given to the home team (per player) if the player played for the IPL teams. The boards also didn’t mind that amount of money and now would rather give away its players for money. One notable exception is Kumar Sangakkara who was practically forced to play for his home country rather than his IPL team by Sri Lankan Cricket Board. In all cases, IPL teams got the best players and the foreign teams were so weakened that 4 put of the 6 winners were IPL teams.
VI. Lack of consistency
One year, New South Wales Blues were crowned champions and next year, they failed to even qualify for the tournament. There was no clause for the champions of 1 CLT20 tournament to directly qualify for the next tournament to defend their title.
Also, one year, NSW Blues, a state Australian team, was crowned champions and next year, the State T20 tournament was abandoned and New South Wales Blues were split into 2 city based teams- Sydney Sixers and Sydney Thunder.
Same thing happened with the Sri Lankan qualification. One year, there was state qualification. Few years later, there was qualification through franchise based Sri Lanka Premier League and then next, through regional Super 4s tournament.
West Indies also restructured their tournament and fan favorite Trinidad & Tobago was dissolved.
So, there was no sense of legacy or heated rivalries that developed over years. It became from the International/domestic “World Cup” mashup to “IPL teams vs World’’ (which was even their tagline in the later years). And more the league failed, more Indian the league became and it may have given it a short term boost but it failed in the long term.
> What's next?
Despite the requests of various players and coaches to bring back the tournament in some form, BCCI has clearly no interest in resurrecting the failed entity. Moreover, BCCI planned to bring a mini-IPL or overseas-IPL to replace the tournament as early as last year, whose plans were set aside simply because of the 2-year suspension of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals.
> Final words:
It was a wonderful initiative which was neither handled well nor accepted well but as a cricket fan, one can only hope that it does come back in some form and is better received in the 2nd round.
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