If Lalit Modi and Dean Kino had added the word “International” to the Champions League T20, the tournament that is currently taking place in India could have replaced the now defunct ICL. Players from the now dead-and-buried ICL have scattered to different teams. Some ICLers, like Shane Bond, are back playing for club and country.
Meanwhile, the tournament that has been christened CLT20 is up and running. After the first edition was scrapped in the wake of 26/11, the CLT20-2009 has been in progress for almost a week now. While the cricket has been ok, CLT20 has certainly been providing air time to Lalit Modi and Bollywood!
Never mind the absence of Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Shilpa Shetty and Preity Zinta, whose teams — respectively Kolkata Knight Riders, Rajasthan Royals and Punjab Kings — were not good enough to be featured in CLT20. This despite the largesse — out of the goodness of Lalit Modi’s heart — to accommodate a 3rd team from the Indian IPL in CLT20 (as opposed to only two teams from Australia and South Africa, the trinity of countries that co-started the CLT20 concept).
But no worries! This edition of CLT20 continues its links with Bollywood, thank you very much! I wouldn’t have known that this was a deliberate ploy till I watched an interview with Bipasha Basu who was at one of the early games; I forget which one! Was this yet another Bollywood Super Bod trying to buy a team, I wondered? Alas no! This was just another one of Lalit Modi’s plans to continue the link between Bollywood and masala cricket. What do they call it now? Co-branding?
T20 and Bollywood are made for each other. Each idiom features a lot of dancing, some colour, some great bodies, lots of song, a booty shake or two, celebreties coming out of your ears and nostrils, a few tears, skimpy-glitzy clothes, some acting, loads of emotion (throw in a slap or two!), plenty of rah-rah, LOADS of money and some talent on view — that is, if you can be bothered enough to pay close attention amidst the chaos, the din, the fake drama and the sheer escapism of both idioms! Both idioms are tailor-made for marketing executive boardrooms. The talent is but secondary. The brand, package and product needs to be sized-right, segmented-right, targetted-right and sold-right.
So the nexus between Bollywood and T20 is totally inevitable. And indeed, talking of cross-influencing each other, nowadays there are quite a few Bollywood movies with a cricket theme. In the recent few months, we have seen the release of movies like Victory, Dil Bole Hadippa and 1999! The latter focuses on the betting scandal that rocked the cricketing world that year!
So in the CLT20 product — See! I am getting into the swing of things too! It is not a game or a match or a tournament, but a “product”! Duh! — that features the T20-Bollywood nexus, some matches feature stars from a soon-to-be-released Bollywood movie. Stars from that movie are featured in the crowd and interviewed on the sidelines. Bipasha Basu was there as a cast member from a movie called “All The Best” there! The cast from “Blue” was there a few days back at the Bangalore Royal Challengers must-win game.
Meanwhile, there has been some cricket action worth noting in the CLT20. In particular, J. P. Duminy’s spectacular century for Cape Cobras against Royal Bangalore Challengers — and by the way, one cannot talk/write about T20 games unless one adopts adjectives like “SpecTACular” and “StuPENDous” and “CRACKing” and “SMASHing” from the Ravi Shastri book of adjectives.
It looks like the following teams will make it to the Super-8 stage:
Group-A: Deccan Chargers (provided they beat T&T) and Trinidad & Tobago
Group-B: NSW (already qualified) and possibly Sussex (Piyush Chawla plays for Sussex)
Group-C: Cape Cobras and Bangalore Royal Challengers (already qualified)
Group-D: Delhi Daredevils and Victorian Bushrangers (already qualified)
Despite the above, I still do like the T20 format. Like Bollywood films, you watch it, feel good about it, complete your ironing at the same time, remember nothing of it, shake a leg and move on to the next thing. However, I am utterly convinced that it was a terrible shame that
(A) India won the inaugural World T20 Championship,
(B) that (A) above woke up the product-packager in Lalit Modi
(C) that ICL, a pre-cursor to Lalit Modi’s product-package was a flop.
I am also utterly convinced that, with Lalit Modi (and now Dean Kino) and the apparent success of IPL, CLT20 and the Bollywood-T20 package, the T20 format cannot co-exist with Tests and ODIs. Something has to give. Wiser cricketing minds than I have talked about the easy co-existence of these three different “products” (Sic! Get me a bucket, quick!).
I am not convinced. Something has to give.
The recent spate of meaningless ODIs have come at a time when the attractiveness of T20 is on the rise. Witness the meaningless set of 7 ODIs between England and Australia! The Champions Trophy had as much fizz as a bottle of coke left open for a few months in the heat of Chennai! We now face the prospect of 7 ODIs between India and Australia on the conclusion of the CLT20 tournament. I am certainly not looking forward to that series of games. The recently concluded Challenger Trophy in India had an audience of about 25 at most of the games — and that number includes the groundsmen, the cops and those wishing to emulate the SpecTACular Ravi Shastri and invade our living rooms through the ubiquitous idiot box!
The ODI format has to give, in my view. And it is time for our administrators to get their collective heads out of the sand that surrounds said heads!
But then that is another debate for another day!