Pressure is evident, but the show goes on well

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FEELING THE STRESS: Marcus Trescothick has flown back to England because he was not fit ‘mentally and physically’.
FEELING THE STRESS: Marcus Trescothick has flown back to England because he was not fit ‘mentally and physically’.

Peter Roebuck

Although Marcus Trescothick’s withdrawal caused distress in a community familiar with the perils of the game, the Champions League has been a success. Cricketers know full well the toll the game can take upon its practitioners. Every man walks out with 0 against his name and the world upon his shoulders. Top class players spend long periods in foreign hotels whose style and hospitality cannot always camouflage their loneliness.

Life on the road has its attractions but it does not suit everyone. Older players, especially, may have families and frayed nerves. Accordingly no one has stooped to condemning the forthright left-hander, a generous batsman without a blot against his name. Cricketers no longer feel obliged to maintain a façade. Better to deal with problems than to pretend they do not exist.

Beyond expectations

Still the show must go on. And it has been quite a show. Indeed the tournament has surpassed expectations, providing a richness absent in technically superior endeavours. The Champions League (CL) has had several particular attractions that have made this first edition all the more enjoyable.

First and foremost CL has none of the tiresome flag waving that emerges when countries lock horns. Oscar Wilde was wrong. Patriotism is admirable and Nationalism is the scourge. No good comes of it.

As far as cricket is concerned, the SCG Test match of 2006/7 was its apogee. Younus Khan has been accused of deliberately losing a match. There was not a shred of evidence, except the defeat itself, and by the way Australia scraped home in the most dramatic circumstances. Later, Younus dropped a sitter and that was taken not as a sign of human fallibility but of match-fixing. And so, wild allegations emerge from the mouths of important people. And so the hysteria continues.

Crowd support

Naturally spectators in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi have cheered for their teams; cricket grounds are not libraries let alone holy places. But the support has been free from nationalism’s nasty edge.

Indeed, the crowds have enhanced India’s reputation as a host by providing exuberant and warm hearted backing for the cricket.

Whenever players are interviewed on television they talk about the noise and their delight to be experiencing such an atmosphere. Bear in mind that most of the competitors have not played for their countries. .

And that’s the second attraction of this tournament. All sorts of hitherto hidden talents have been given a chance to prove their worth. It has been the freshest tournament staged for years.

Only devotees and local experts knew much about Trinidad and Tobago beforehand yet Daren Ganga’s team has been as audacious, passionate and effective as any rival. Ganga’s bright and imaginative captaincy has been another strongpoint. A thousand pities he wasn’t given a little more ability with the bat for then the blight affecting West Indian cricket might have been avoided.

Moreover, Trinidad has relied on spin. Between them pace and 20-over cricket were supposed to send slow bowlers to graze in remote pastures. Instead they have become a significant force in the compressed version of the game. Not the least joy of CL has been the sight of unsung tweakers luring batsmen to their doom.

Except that the Australian teams have been competitive, the Champions League has also been unpredictable. Alas the IPL sides have not fared well. Perhaps there is a lesson in that.

Common characteristic

New South Wales, Victoria, Trinidad and Tobago, The Eagles, the Cape Cobras and others have one characteristic in common. They are genuine teams, not makeshift line-ups stuffed with imported stars, and it shows. By all means stage the IPL. It’s fun.

But BCCI ought to organise another 20-over competition for provincial teams with no overseas players allowed and the top two sides to advance to the CL. Then the crowds will roar. Then Indian cricket could gain even more from its organisation, with more players making their names. And one of its teams might take the trophy.

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