Opinion: CLT20 missing maestro Modi influence

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After a fortnight that saw six qualifiers and 14 Champions League T20 matches, this uninspiring competition has now separated the wheat from the chaff and enters the semi-final stage.

On Thursday the Kolkata Knight Riders will take on the Hobart Hurricanes and the Kings XI Punjab will do battle with the Chennai Super Kings thereafter. The final is on Saturday in Bangalore.

The CLT20 has traditionally been a hard-fought tournament with nail-biting finishes and unpredictable results, but sadly this year’s edition has been anticlimactic on virtually every level. Pathetic crowds, one-sided games, few emerging stars and a pretty ordinary standard of cricket have killed the vibe. I am loathe to be negative about cricket in India because it is such a privilege to cover the stuff, but it has been about as exciting as last week’s cornflakes.

In an apparent effort to stimulate Indian television audience numbers, the playing field has consistently been unlevelled to favour Indian sides – and none of the three Indian sides have been beaten by one of the seven qualifying foreign teams.

The South African teams failed to win any of their eight matches (the Cobras managed a tie) and those from New Zealand and the West Indies weren’t any better (Barbados won a game but only because it was against the Northern Knights). Since the qualifiers not a single game was won by an underdog.

It is of some relief that the four best sides have made the knockout stages as it guarantees a few well-matched fixtures in front of (hopefully) healthy-sized crowds. The M Chinnaswamy Stadium is an excellent venue for a final, but it has been disheartening to watch matches at this usually high scoring and cacophonously noisy cauldron being played in front of empty stands.

The problem is that most people have lost interest in the competition and it will be challenging to reignite the cold coals for what should have been a flaming final weekend. The only time before that I can recall being able to hear a pin drop in an Indian stadium has been when Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed.

It obviously hasn’t all been doom and gloom. A handful of players have caught the eye and a few matches were close until the last over. Punjab’s young leg-spinner, Karanveer Singh, is a very promising find, a glittering unbeaten ton from the Barbados Tridents’ Jonathan Carter was a rare treat, Mitchell Marsh gave two unlikely wins to Perth by hitting multiple sixes at the death, his team-mate Joel Paris bowled with venom and accuracy and KKR’s Suryakumar Yadav proved he is a class batsman. His team’s winning streak of 13 matches that began during the IPL is a remarkable feat in a format that many consider as predictable as tossing a coin.

By tinkering with the rules in an effort to augment interest in the CLT20, the organisers have made it uninteresting and achieved the opposite – they have been hoist with their petard.

Playing the tournament in South Africa at least attracted interesting games and good crowds. It is a pity that English teams are no longer involved in the competition because crowds would be good in that country and this tournament needs more than just a slight change of scenery to spark it back to life.

I have little doubt that were it not for long term television rights commitments the Board of Control for Cricket in India would by now have pulled the plug. I would hate to ask where is that shark Lalit Modi when you need him, but he’s the kind of ideas maestro missing from the rank and file of whoever is directing this uninspiring and platitudinous theatre.

Nick Sadleir in Bangalore

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