Feeling grumpy? You’ve come to the right place. I’m like a bear with sore head today and I’m going to let rip. Yesterday the inappropriately named Mumbai Indians (over a third of their team isn’t actually Indian) won the so called greatest prize a domestic team can win. I am not amused. I hate the T20 Champions League, I’m beginning to get fed up with T20 cricket in general, and I hate the fuss that people on the subcontinent make about such a spurious event. It’s just not cricket.
Let’s look a little closer at the Mumbai team, and the whole concept of the competition. For starters, the Mumbai Indians are not really a domestic cricket team. Like their fellow finalists, the naffly named Royal Challengers Bangalore, they’re an artificially generated franchise, who compiled their team by out-bidding other franchises to secure the best players. They might as well be honest and re-name the team Mumbai United, or Mumbai City or something – a name that reflects the ‘football-isation’ of cricket in Asia.
Mumbai’s star bowler is the Sri Lankan Lasith Malinga, who is a mercenary as far as I’m concerned: he turned his back on his country to make a killing playing in events like this. In doing so, he’s helping T20 and the IPL in particular to kill international test cricket.
The only silver lining in yesterday’s result was that Chris Gayle, the man who said he loves T20 because it’s short and sweet (I wouldn’t have minded so much, but he said it on the eve of a test match in which he was captaining the West Indies) plays for the vanquished Bangalore team. He made just five runs in twelve balls. You’re right, Chris, that was very short indeed and extremely sweet.
As for the Champions League itself, what a pigs ear of a tournament; it’s even worse than its European equivalent in football. For starters, you don’t actually have to be a champion to enter it. Take Somerset, England’s representatives. All county cricket fans know that Somerset are champions at absolutely nothing. They’re a good team, but they’re always runners up. But who cares when you’ve got an Americanised sporting concept to flog to the masses?!
The T20 Champions League and the IPL are vulgar events that are promoted like heavyweight boxing bouts. No wonder that cricketing luminaries like Michael Holding and Sir Ian Botham, even Ricky Ponting for heavens sake, think that T20 is ruining cricket’s brand. Money is the root of all evil in sport – and cricket is rapidly disappearing down the same plug hole as football. Before we know it, the next test series in England will be promoted by Elton John singing Are You Ready For Love surrounded by cheerleaders waving pompoms. Enough already!
Meanwhile, a whole generation of Indian cricketers are growing up in the mistaken belief that events like the IPL and the T20 Champions League are the pinnacle of the sport – much like footballers who couldn’t care less about playing well for their country as long as they get a huge pay cheque from their club chairman every week.
There are stacks of talented young batsmen in India, but T20 isn’t teaching them how to play correctly. Just look at Suresh Raina’s travails in England. He was a walking wicket in the test matches, but as soon as the pyjamas and the white ball come out, and bowlers aren’t allowed to bowl short, he metamorphoses into a superman. I fear that the new stars of Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan cricket won’t care about test cricket and the art of proper batting. They’ll rely on their eye and their ability to hit sixes over cow corner – in which case, why don’t they just sod off and play baseball?