So after a few quite weeks on the cricket front it is back to the big business of the Champions League in South Africa. Following a Test series where a game is played over five days and 450 overs and a One day tournament comprising 50 Overs per side, theattention of the world public and of course our own Sri Lankan public will focus on South Africa when the shortest invented version of serious cricket the T 20 is played.
Though we do know that six a side cricket is being played and the Hong Kong sixes can be a very serious affair despite the fact that it is universally agreed that the interest and following is no where close to an event such as what is about to unfold on the 10th of September which is the Champions League of course!
Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardena will join another host of World League cricketers in South Africa
Digressing further one can’t ignore the fact that Marketing and Financial Incentives have taken over the game of cricket and today the stake holders of the game who are the players are having a very good return on their investment of time.
Besides the players the investors too are moving the game to a win-win and a win situation to all involved. That is the investors themselves, sponsors, the players and the viewing public and not forgetting TV net works out of which stems many others who benefit directly and indirectly. So it’s no surprise if more leagues are introduced and players opt to play for them rather than their country considering the financial benefits they stand to gain!
As for the Champions League this year, domestic champions from South Africa, India, Australia, West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka participate with the notable absentee’s being teams from England though Domestic Teams from Pakistan or Bangladesh hasn’t still been a part of it.
The tournament will kick off with the strong Mumbai Indians with the likes of Tendulkar, Bravo, Duminy, Harbhajan, Zaheer Khan, Lasith Malinga, Pollard and the exciting young Indian prospect Tiwary in their squad whilst the Lions will just have the international experience of Alviro Peterson and Neil McKenzie from South Africa. Whilst on paper the Mumbai Indians should be one of the front runners for the trophy we do know that T 20 could be the most unpredictable form of cricket as many a under dog has over come fancied teams in the past.
A look around the rest of the squads would see some big names and sort after cricketers of the caliber of Mahela Jayawardane, Welagedera, Thisara Perera, Ajantha Mendis, Maharoof and Rangana Herath from Wayamba with a host of other very talented and experienced player in the line up. Chennai Super Kings led By Mahendra Singh Dhoni appear to be the strongest and ideally suited for T 20 with Ashwin, Balaji, Doug Bollinger, Mike Hussey, Mathew Hayden, Justin Kemp, Albie Morkel, Muthiah Muralitharan, Suresh Raina and Murali Vijay forming a very strong side. However the 3rd Indian side which is the Royal Challengers of Bangalore may not be a great force to be reckoned with as players such as Dravid and Kumble are definitely past their prime whilst the likes of Kohli, Mithun and Uttapah are still not considered established in the world stage. On the other hand the experience of Kallis, Steyn, Ross Taylor and Cameron White from Australia would definitely be a huge bonus to the Royal Challengers.
The domestic teams from Australia despite the fact that they are without international stars could still be considered a threat. South Australia a largely unknown side from an international point of view has the very fast Shaun Tait and the new comer George whilst Victoria could boost of a few more known names such as David Hussey, Brad Hodge, Dirk Nannes, Peter Siddle and Andrew McDonald though they are not bound to excite too many people around the world.
The Guyanese outfit who are the West Indies Domestic champs have just Sarwan and Deonarine to show whilst the South African’s who have the Lions and the Warriors participating have few more players such as Boje, Boucher, Botha, Ntini and Prince who have either ended their careers or are nearing its end.
The Central Districts team from New Zealand along with Guyana appears to be the two weakest sides. Jacob Oram a regular New Zealand player who has been plagued by injury is the only top player in the Central Districts the line up, whilst Jamie How and Peter Ingram who are yet to progress in the big league are the other two known names in a largely unheard squad participating in the Champions League.
Besides the financial reward which I touched on earlier in this column, another huge positive for the players to look forward to will be the forth coming Cricket World Cup! Yes T 20 cricket and the 50 over version are beginning to show the vast differences it has as a format though it would be an opportunity for heaps of players to show case their talent!
From a Sri Lankan perspective it is definitely true for the likes of Maharoof, Udawatte, Mubarak and Welagedera and also in the case of the likes of Jeewantha Kulatunga.. Players of the caliber of Thisara Perera who is already considered a shorter version player will have another opportunity to enhance his already growing reputation with youngsters such as all rounder Shalika Karunanayake, the former U 19 vice captain and wicket keeper batsman Sameera Soyza and the exciting wicket keeper batsman Kusal Janith looking to use this opportunity as a huge bonus to press home their case for greater recognition.
* Roshan Abeysinghe is a leading cricket promoter and an international cricket commentator