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A Twenty 20 Champions League Will Bring Problems As Well As Money
I have previously written about the threat posed by Twenty 20 cricket to the 50 over format, but it now appears that Twenty 20 is a threat to itself. The new tournament, scheduled to take place somewhere in Asia in September and October, joins an already crowded cricket schedule.
With so many 20 tournaments in place – taking place in all eight of the major Test-playing nations – the implementation of a Champions League will be difficult. Such a tournament seeks to bring together the best teams from each country in one tournament to give the world a club 20 champion. However, players currently represent different teams – some of which may play against each other in the proposed tournament – and player registration will therefore be a difficult issue.
There is apparently a verbal agreement that the players will represent their ‘local’ team. For example, Ricky Ponting would play for the Tasmanian Tigers rather than the Somerset Sabers or the Kolkata Knightriders, for whom he has also played. Enforcing this protocol would be difficult in a format that thrives on the free market and player mobility. Money talks in Twenty 20 and will certainly be the most important factor in deciding where players will ply their trade.
The winner of the new tournament stands to win $5 million, with significant prize money also on offer for the runner-up and semi-finalists. This prize fund adds an extra spice to the England Twenty 20 cup as the finalists from this summer’s tournament go to the Champions League to join the pair of qualifiers already in place from Australia, India and South Africa. With so much riding on the outcome, the Twenty 20 cup is a far more serious business than it was at its inception in 2003.
There is also the problem caused by ICL. This Indian Twenty 20 tournament, which was not sanctioned by the board, featured several English county players and these players, according to the Indian cricket board, are not eligible to play in the Champions League.
These problems are compounded by the danger of over-kill. With an England vs. All stars XI match also organized by Allen Stanford, the American businessman behind West Indies’ Twenty 20 – prize fund $20m. – there is a risk that the public may ultimately feel that too many big money Twenty 20 matches are being played.
Twenty 20 cricket is in its sixth year in England and although the game is enjoying global expansion, the game here certainly cannot be sustained at the current level. Counties are cashing in to the point where a group ticket now costs upwards of £25 ($50) and the original vision for the tournament in England, to introduce cricket to a new audience, has been lost. It’s no longer a fun, carnival version of the game, but an ultra-competitive and highly cashed incarnation of it. There is a saturation point, and we may already be approaching it.
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