England have done it again. The nation that makes a habit of inventing the best games, then hastily falls behind the rest of the world in said genre, has pulled it off again. First it was cricket. Then football. Then Twenty20 cricket. Now the Champions League Twenty20 is having its inaugural running amid all the pomp and ceremony we have grown to expect from the people behind the Indian Premier League.
Only, the winners will not actually be the inaugural Champions League champions. A version of the enterprise was played before, in England in 2005 when the 20-over game was still in infancy. Back then, the winners from Pakistan took home the princely sum of £25,000 (Dh146,000) as the International 20:20 Club Champions, the next staging of which had been planned for the UAE, but never came to pass.
Times have changed. This time round, the players on the podium at the end of the final will divvy up US$2.5million (Dh9.2m). Furthermore, there are no Pakistani participants, save for the solitary involvement of the all-rounder Yasir Arafat. Pakistan's players are not permitted to play for their IPL franchises, but Arafat sneaks in to the competition as an overseas player for Sussex Sharks. Arafat will be joined in their attack by the Indian leg-spinner, Piyush Chawla, and their coach, Mark Robinson, is hoping a little local knowledge will go a long way.
"Having PC in the side is an advantage," said Robinson. "He can provide us with inside knowledge about Indian players and conditions. "Yasir will also play a big role because the conditions here are similar to Pakistan." Somerset, the other English side in India, have some previous in inter-continental competition. They include two players in their squad who are survivors of that 2005 final, which they lost to Faisalabad Wolves. One of whom, Arul Suppiah, the young all-rounder, now qualifies to play for England, having attended boarding school in Somerset after leading his native Kuala Lumpur at the age of 12.