How many cricket fans in England know that the biggest (supposedly) domestic Twenty20 cricket tournament is currently being played in India? Not many.
The Champions League Twenty20 brings the winning teams from various Twenty20 tournaments across the globe together in a clash worthy of its name.
Yet, unbeknownst to English cricket fans, MS Dhoni plundered one of the fastest fifties in history yesterday when his 16-ball half-century helped Chennai Super Kings to a 12-run victory over fellow IPL graduates Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Dhoni’s innings went largely unnoticed in England, partly due to the fact that the BBC rarely covers the IPL and other Twenty20 tournaments, and also due to Eurosport winning the contract for the televised rights.
Truthfully, viewership was always likely to suffer in the UK once Eurosport got their hands on the deal. They are not Sky Sports, or BT Sport for that matter, and consequently advertisement for the CLT20 was so scarce it was almost ghostly.
This isn’t Eurosport’s fault though, they won the rights to the tournament fairly and their dedicated following will have been treated to some quality cricket as the tournament edges towards its second half, with the final being played a week on Sunday (Oct 6).
It is perhaps the fault of ITV4, though. Logically, as they hold broadcasting rights for the IPL, they should have done more to secure the rights for what is technically a bigger tournament.
However, the absence of any English teams in the competition provides some idea as to why Eurosport were effectively unchallenged for the screening rights.
Being held in mid-September, the CLT20 clashes with the conclusion of the County Championship in England. This means that county sides are reluctant to participate in the tournament when promotion or relegation is on the line.
This is particularly true of Northamptonshire who, after winning the Friends Life T20 this summer, couldn’t travel to India because of their four-day commitments.
Promotion to Division One was their objective and, after taking the necessary points during a 115-run defeat to Worcestershire, they achieved that goal by finishing second in the table to Lancashire.
Another reason for the lack of mainstream coverage in the UK is that India is currently plagued by the end of the monsoon season.
Several games in this year’s CLT20 have been rain-affected, while the forecast for the remaining fixtures looks equally bleak.
So, it seems the main terrestrial UK broadcasters have taken the calculated gamble to save money on acquiring the TV rights.
That aside, it means that UK viewers will continue to miss innings of the majesty of Dhoni’s unless they have Eurosport – subscription for which, of course, would make a serious dent in anyone’s wallet.
For that reason, the CLT20 will continue to assume its role as the definitive cricketing enigma. Until the rights are secured by a terrestrial broadcaster, the majority of fans in the UK will be starved of watching a tournament as opulent, but also tragically mysterious, as the Champions League Twenty20.
- You can follow me on Twitter @NeilWalton89