Tonight a team from east of the Orient meet a West Indian nation in Hyderabad to decide cricket's first ever international competition for domestic teams. There's a fair bit of money at stake, and probably even more in bragging rights.
While there is little doubt that these two teams have been the performers of the Champions' League, there has been discussion about which teams have featured at the pointy end of the event. Trinidad and Tobago dispatched the South African Cobras in their semi-final, while the NSWelshmen notched up a very satisfying win over their oldest rivals. No IPL team was in sight.
While much has been made of the predicted financial dominance of the IPL, I don't find these results surprising. The IPL qualifiers do not (yet?) compete with teams from similar but poorer leagues. Some have suggested that pride in state, province or nation has played a part, but I see more concrete factors at work. The established teams play and train as a team for whole seasons, not just for one six week tournament. The successful ones are also more crowded with international stars than teams that could be produced by the IPL model at this stage of its development, although it must be noted the IPL has indeed given many of these stars significant twenty over exposure to add to their other experience. Delhi have also played a double role, in one of hte least satisfactory aspects of the CLT20 set-up. How much would have changed if Nannes and Warner had swapped their decisions?
In any case, the finalists have played attacking cricket, and it should be a good game. As a distinctly non-neutral observer, I would be happier if it were being played in Delhi, where the bowling strength of NSW can be most exploited.
Several batsmen have talked down the Kotla pitch, and some have suggested that it robs the crowds of the fours and (super)sixes that crowds think T20 is all about. I don't understand this view. T20 certainly changes the balance of risks, giving plenty for purists to dislike in batting styles as a matter or taste, but I thought the excitement relied more on the frenetic pace of the game, than frenetic batting in particular. Surely a battle between bat or ball is more interesting than a shootout, and with similar conditions for both innings, we have the makings of a fast exciting contest, whether wickets are falling or sixes being scored!
In any case, the batsmen should fare better in Hyderabad. NSW will want to prevent the occurence of anything like Pollard's demolition which was their downfall the last time these two met. I don't know how soon that is likely to be repeated! As I see it, the question is not what the bowlers conceed to Pollard and co., but whether the NSW batsmen can emulate him. Both in the last weeks and last summer, the Blues have often seemed either unable or unwilling to fully exploit the final overs of their innings.