While the nation immersed itself in the swanky opening ceremony of the Indian Premier League on Friday, the national T20 championship kicked off on the same day, minus the glitz, glamour and hoopla.
I'm talking about the prestigious Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, and the national T20 tournament is already paying the price for being IPL’s poor cousin.
While the first round took place just before the start of the season, the knockouts are being played alongside the IPL. Even as all seems good in the IPL camp, the qualifying teams of the national T20 tournament are in a fix, as they are fielding not-so-prominent players because the regulars have flipped sides to cash in on the IPL. We have a situation with the players having chosen the franchise over their state. Ironically though, the choice wasn't entirely theirs.
The question of missing a few IPL games didn't arise as the states happily fielded second-string teams. Delhi are one of the worst hit with as many as 13 regular players missing. While this gives others an opportunity to represent the state, it devalues the importance of the state cap and tournament.
There's another important issue lurking in the background. The team that wins the domestic tournament should ideally feature in the Champions League, for the concept of the Champions League is to feature the top T20 teams from different countries. The teams playing in the IPL do not represent the whole of India, while the state teams playing in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy do.
The problem will arise if and when the winners of the national T20 are included in the Champions League. What if both Delhi and the Delhi Daredevils qualify for the Champions League? Who will Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Co represent? Ideally, they should put the state ahead of their franchise, but I'm not sure if their contracts give them that luxury. And if they play for the Daredevils, wouldn't they be letting their state and, more importantly, the association down? After all, it is the state association that provides cricketers the platform to showcase their talent.
What will happen if the Knight Riders and Delhi were to qualify? Who will Ishant Sharma play for? Dirk Nannes faced a similar situation in the first edition of the Champions League. While most cricketers chose to play for their respective states/counties, Nannes chose to play for the Daredevils instead of Victoria Bushrangers. His decision didn't go down well with Cricket Victoria.
The Indian players could be in a similar situation, if not in this Champions League then in the near future. Are we ready to deal with this?