Everything you wanted to know about the Champions League
What is the Twenty20 Champions League?
The Twenty20 Champions League is an international tournament featuring the best teams of the domestic Twenty20 tournaments in various nations. It is scheduled to be held in October 2008.
Who is behind it and is it official?
It will be run by the cricket boards of India, Australia, South Africa, and England. The league has the backing of the ICC, so it will be deemed official.
What's all the buzz about?
Simply put, it's probably the first international tournament for domestic sides. It's not too different from the similarly named football tournament in Europe. Just as football clubs from various European nations qualify through their individual leagues for the football Champions League, the top two teams from each of these cricket-playing nations will qualify through their respective Twenty20 domestic leagues for the Twenty20 Champions League. Teams in England, Australia and South Africa will qualify through existing competitions; for India, where the Twenty20 structure barely exists, a new league called the Indian Premier League (IPL) will be put in place.
Have the details been worked out? The where, when and how?
As mentioned above, it will be played next October between eight teams, two from each country, divided into two groups. There will be a total of 15 matches, including the semi-finals and the final. The venues are yet to be decided, but it shouldn't be a problem because the organisers have the support of the ICC and the national boards.
What will they be playing for?
The overall prize money for the Twenty20 Champions League will be $5 million, the winners taking home $2 million. There will be $3 million up for grabs in the IPL. By contrast, the winners of the ICC World Cup in the Caribbean took home $1 million; the team that wins the current ICC World Twenty20 will take home half of that.
Where did the idea come from?
There is a school of thought that the idea was originally put forward in 1996 by the same man who is in charge of the project now: Lalit Modi, BCCI's vice-president. But it was shot down then because it would go against the zonal system that the BCCI runs under. Modi, though, says the work seriously got underway a couple of years ago when Sharad Pawar became the BCCI president. It is believed that the project was fast-tracked when the Zee group in India announced the Indian Cricket League in April this year.
How are they different to each other?
They both use the Twenty20 format but that's about all they have in common. The ICL is not recognised by any of the national boards or the ICC; it is a one-nation tournament lacking the status, international reach, players, and the infrastructure that the Twenty20 Champions League will have by default. The players here won't be barred from representing their nations, unlike the ones who have joined the ICL. It will eliminate the concept of regional representation. For example, it is possible in theory that Glenn McGrath plays for Mumbai Maulers against New South Wales in the final of the Twenty20 Champions League.
And there's one more difference: Franchises.
Franchises? What's that?
That means the teams making up the Twenty20 league in each participating country will no longer have regional affiliation as they do now - states in Australia and India, counties in England - but will be owned by corporate houses, rather like football teams in Europe or the major sports teams in the US. And, like them, they can trade, appoint coaches and support staff, buy equipment and make best use of whatever resources they have. Apart from the prize money (more on that later) the sources of revenue will be gate money, a share of TV earnings, and sale of merchandise. It hasn't yet been decided if they will have a share in the players' endorsements.
To begin with, the franchise concept will apply to the IPL; the organisers plan to extend it to the other countries in a couple of years' time.
Hang on - what about other countries where they play Twenty20, Pakistan, for example??
Pakistan is a notable missing name but Modi says it will be part of the inaugural Champions League. However, it's yet to be seen in what capacity Pakistan is involved; it is believed that Pakistan, like Sri Lanka, does not have the economy to sustain a full-fledged franchise concept. It's possible that the IPL includes one team from Pakistan. New Zealand have also not been directly involved in the Champions League so far but the country's cricket board is already talking of its teams joining Australia's Twenty20 competition to have a shot at the international event.
All this is pretty radical, isn't it?
It certainly has potential to change the game. Lalit Modi wasn't joking when he told Cricinfo, "We're going forward and trying to change the world order." One, the money could make Twenty20 the most lucrative form of cricket any aspiring cricketer wants to play. So what would that do to cricket skills and talent pools for longer versions of the game is anyone's guess. Two, it could change the way we look at cricket. Teams based on regional affiliations will be replaced by teams based on commerce, players playing not for local pride but for top dollar. That's how football has grown in the last 20 years - and not everyone's happy with the shape it's in today.
It is significant that the league was launched in the presence of cricket's most powerful men - the heads of the ICC and the Indian, Australian and South African boards, and the ECB's No. 2 (not to mention Messrs Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, McGrath and Fleming).
And who are the big players bidding to purchase teams?
On January 24, 2008 the IPL announced the eight city franchises and their owners, a mix of the biggest names in business and Bollywood, after an auction worth US$723.59 million, almost double the combined base price of US$400 million. Top industrialists and Bollywood stars led the bandwagon as the BCCI raked in the money - Mukesh Ambani, the Reliance Industries chairman, acquired the Mumbai franchise for $111.9 million over a 10-year period; beer and airline baron Vijay Mallya, who also owns a Formula 1 team, won the Bangalore franchise for $111.6 million; Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan's Red Chillies Entertainment won the Kolkata franchise for $75 million; the biggest surprise was the Chandigarh franchise, which went to Preity Zinta, another Bollywood star, and Ness Wadia, together with two other major industrialists, for $75 million. The IPL sure does mean big, big business.