A skim through the playing XI of many non-IPL teams in the CLT20 tells you they are poorer cousins of their IPL counterparts. They are as good as a Bengal or Baroda, who topped their domestic circuit, but are as rundown as any state team when playing an international outfit. IPL teams boasting big names and experience are, of course, better bets.
Logically then, teams without star power should not be a patch on the three Indian teams, yet they've given them a run for their money. What allows lesser teams to hold sway? More importantly, how good are our IPL teams after all?
In my opinion, it isn't the standard but the competitiveness that seals the deal in favour of the IPL. And a good level of competition must not be mixed with the quality on show. The IPL teams do well as most teams are equally balanced or imbalanced. All come together only for 45 days and since IPL is a long league you can afford to start slowly, and begin working as a unit a couple of weeks into the tournament.
But there're no such luxury in the Champions League. It's mandatory to hit the ground running. Since IPL teams don't play together round the year, they find it tough to work as a team from the beginning. They consume vital time in figuring out how players will perform in situations and what makes them tick. Of course, state teams enjoy an edge on this count.
Unfortunately, IPL teams have mostly banked on reputations and not form to bail them out of tough situations, while first-class teams have had in-form players for responsibility.
Another factor which has had a huge impact is knowledge of the opposition. Since IPL is hugely watched, its players have been analysed. The other teams escape such scrutiny. While other teams prepare in advance and know what to expect, our teams need to be more fluid in approach. The coach's role becomes insignificant because it's the captain who must think on his feet, analyse the opposition on the ground and react appropriately. He must also back his instincts.
The thing that might bring parity in this year's edition is its timing. Most teams are coming out of an off-season and might be as rusty as IPL teams. In spite of IPL teams claiming to have more matchwinners, it's imperative to play as a unit. Seasoned players are expected to adapt to South African conditions more easily than most first-class cricketers, but it is always a team that wins a match.