Modified IPL or money talks?
Thursday, July 5 2012
THE EDITOR: The last-minute announcement that Mumbai Indians (MI), who placed fourth in IPL 2012, has been granted direct entry into the main tournament of the so-called Champions League, has generated many angry and cynical reactions from around the world.
The upshot is that four IPL teams, two South African teams and two Australian teams are automatically in the main tournament while six teams from five countries (West Indies, England-two, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and New Zealand) must fight for the last two places in a qualifying tournament. Last year, three qualifying places were on offer.
It appears that the real champions league is the qualifying tournament where only champions (plus one runner-up) play. Imagine a TT side that was runner-up in 2009, that beat the top IPL teams in 2011 with a weakened side (without Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo), that includes Sunil Narine (player of IPL 2012), Pollard, Bravo, Kevon Cooper and Samuel Badree (one of the most economical in CL 2011), having to fight for two spots among six teams!! That is completely unjustifiable and unacceptable.
Some are trying to justify MI’s inclusion by saying they are the defending champions. But that’s an after-the-fact justification. New South Wales was champion in 2009 (they beat TT in the final) but didn’t qualify in 2010. The point is, this stipulation was never in the rules and the reality is that the rules have been arbitrarily changed to allow the forth-placed IPL team direct entry into the main draw. One can only surmise that this is the Golden Rule at work: he who has the gold makes the rule.
So why was MI added? Was it to allow Sachin Tendulkar and his star-appeal team-mates to play in order to increase Indian TV audiences (the matches will be played in South Africa)? Was it the influence of MI’s owner, Mukesh Ambani, the richest sports owner in the world (at US$22.3 billion), according to Forbes Magazine? Ambani lives in a 27-storey house worth US$2 billion and reportedly (Indian magazine) paid about US$1 million for VVVVVIP boxes for the ICC World Cup final between India and Sri Lanka in 2011. Do you think he would have difficulty buying a spot in a tournament that is Indian-dominated? I guess we will not be told the reasons, hence we can only speculate.
From the comments on the Cricinfo article, there is general dissatisfaction worldwide with this decision. Most people are asking how can you call it a “Champions League” when a fourth-placed team gets automatic entry into the main draw? Some have cynically suggested, “Might as well throw in all 9 IPL teams and let the other countries fight for the tenth spot.” There seems to be a genuine desire for a real Champions League, not a modified IPL parading as a Champions League.
So, perhaps, there is a business opportunity here for the West Indies Board or, even, the TT Board. Organise a true Champions League with one team from each of WI, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, SA, England, Australia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand (that’s ten). If practical, add two more from a qualifying tournament among the champions of the Associates. If organised and run properly, this tournament will have the potential to supercede the India-South Africa-Australia League, currently known by the misnomer, T20 Champions League. Let’s not miss the boat, again.