There are a lot of T20 tournaments around the world. You’ve got the IPL, the BBL, the CPL, the BPL, the PSL, the RamSlam, the, er, Georgie Pie Super Smash and the catchily-titled Natwest T20 Blast. Now another has arrived to blow all the other pretenders out of the water. This is the MCL, or the ‘Masters Champions League’.
To give some idea of what to expect from this, when you Google “IPL”, you’re bombarded with links to everything about the league (including a suggested search for “IPL hair removal”). When you Google “MCL”, the front page results include: the Wikipedia page for the medial collateral ligament; the website of MCL, one of Europe‘s leading manufacturers and suppliers of engineered composite products for the utility, construction and infrastructure markets; mclcreate.com, a one stop shop for all your event needs and two links to the law faculty at Cambridge University.
According to an extremely reputable encyclopaedia website, the main idea behind the MCL is “the players must all have been former international cricketers who are now retired from all forms of the professional sport”. Yeah, this is bollocks. Of which more below. But first, whose idea was all this?
“Zafar Shah has Pakistani Passion and Love for the Criket as all of the Pakistan is crazy for Cricket. Even Zafar Shah’s Son is a well know Player for Grand Midwest Royal, Sameer Shah. As the chairman of GM Sports, he is one of the founders of Masters Champions League”
Right. Fortunately the official website tells us a bit more about Zafar Shah and his motives (as an aside, further research makes us extremely suspicious that this “dynamic, multi-talented business mind” might have “fearlessly delved” into writing his own Wikipedia page).
We will get to the actual teams, honest. But first, how did this come to our attention? Well, a couple of months ago our interest in this
absolute lolfest extremely forward-thinking tournament was piqued by a piece of news we read about it:
“ACTOR DUTT BUYS MCL FRANCHISE
Movie actor Sanjay Dutt, serving time until next year for his alleged role in the 1983 Bombay blasts, has bought a franchise in the UAE-based Masters Champions League”
Let he who has not sold a stake in his league to an alleged terrorist cast the first stone.
Onto the teams. There are six, named after signs of the zodiac for reasons which aren’t entirely clear. Each team has two ‘marquee’ players. They are:
Abdul Razzaq and Michael Vaughan (Capricorn Commanders)
Scott Styris and Heath Streak (Leo Lions)
Sourav Ganguly and Graeme Swann (Libra Legends)
Virender Sehwag and Kumar Sangakkara (Gemini Arabians)
Mahela Jayawardene and Daniel Vettori (Sagittarius Soldiers)
Graeme Smith and Azhar Mahmood (Virgo Super Kings)
Some issues spring to mind at this point. For instance, Michael Vaughan’s last competitive match was on 26 June 2009. Kumar Sangakkara is a) not retired from all forms of professional cricket and b) scored a Test double hundred last January. Mahela Jayawardene scored 165 against South Africa in a Test match in June, while the last time we saw Heath Streak he was coaching Bangladesh at the World Cup and looking like he’d been taking post-retirement fitness advice from Diego Maradona. There may be quite a broad range of quality on show.
The auction took place in December, with Jacques Kallis and (44 year old) Adam Gilchrist the most expensive signings at $175,000 and $170,000 respectively. They, along with Brian Lara, Brett Lee, Muttiah Muralitharan and Paul Collingwood (obviously) are “icon players”. Again, it isn’t clear what that means.
Perhaps they get first pick of all the drugs and hookers.
The rest of the players involved are where the magic really happens though. Some of the usual suspects are there. Graeme Smith, Richard Levi, Brad Hogg; Ryan ten Doeschate is coming; James Franklin and Owais Shah are coming. But then there is Neil Carter, Phil Mustard and Gareth Batty. Far be it from us to suggest the idea of a ‘legends’ tournament began to fall apart when there weren’t enough legends who wanted to play.
Generally T20 franchises around the world couldn’t give a flying toss about English players. The MCL is different. The MCL is like a giant orgy of England ODI teams from the last decade or so. Which, if you take the nationality out, is not that different to most of the other T20 leagues around the world. Allegedly.
Rikki Clarke, Geraint Jones, Ryan Sidebottom, Michael Lumb, Michael Carberry, Simon Jones, Jonathan Trott, Gavin Hamilton (Gavin Hamilton!), Darren Gough. Yes, that Darren Gough. 45 year old, hasn’t played a proper game for seven years Darren Gough. He’ll be playing for the Leo Lions, alongside Streak, Styris, Carter, Brendan Taylor and Ramesh Powar. Won’t someone think of the dinner expenses?
So this is where we are. A tournament for retired players which includes a load of current players. Where one of the teams is owned by a man currently in jail for links to a bombing. Where the official website tells us the matches will be played across three venues when it’s actually only two. We haven’t even got to Saleem Elahi yet, who last played an international match 12 years ago and took part in a grand total of zero T20 matches in his career. A few years ago we were excited by Luke Wright and Steve Smith getting picked by the same IPL side, but that is nothing compared to how much we’re looking forward to this.
The big question, then, is where can you see it? The answer, miraculously, is on Sky. Or at least on Sky’s ‘digital platforms’. The first game is today, January 28th, between Ryan Sidebottom’s Libra Legends and Justin Kemp’s Gemini Arabians. After that there are two games every day until February 11th, when the semi finals begin. The greatest show on earth starts here!