Twenty20 cricket made its debut at competition level when the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) introduced the format for professional inter-county matches in 2003. Primarily a 40-over game, it was intended to be a lively format of the game in order to draw in more spectators and generate more television viewers – as a result of which more revenue would be earned.
Known as the shortest cricketing format, T20 was introduced to replace the Benson & Hedges Cup after the tourney ended in 2002. Thousands of fans had been put off by the ‘boring’ longer versions, and needed a fast-paced, exciting form – and the ECB provided it with the Twenty20 Cup, which took off in June 2003.
Since then, the format has spread to the rest of the world – Pakistan established it in 2004, Australia in 2005, and the West Indies regional teams played in the Stanford 20/20 tournament in 2006 (a brainchild of former Texas billionaire Allen Stanford). It has also resulted in the formation of professional T20 leagues all over the world, such as the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL), the Pakistan Super League (formerly the Faysal Bank T20 Cup) and the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL).
Here is a list of five of the biggest T20 leagues in the world:
5. Friends Life T20 (England and Wales)
Friends Life T20 of England
Previously known as the Friends Provident T20, this cricket league is the successor to the Twenty20 Cup as the premier domestic competition of England & Wales in the shortest format. It also replaced the Pro40 League, and hosted its first season in 2010.
The league consists of eighteen county teams that play first-class cricket, divided into three divisions of six teams each. Former England players Chris Read, James Foster, Matthew Hoggard and Marcus Trescothick have led some of these teams. The squads can have up to two overseas players – classified as ‘unqualified’ – along with T20 specialists from both England & Wales.
Irish batsman Kevin O’Brien holds the record for the highest individual score in the league, while South African fast bowler Alfonso Thomas has taken the most wickets in a single season.
4. Caribbean Premier League (CPL / CPLT20 – West Indies)
Caribbean Premier League of West Indies
This is an annual Twenty20 cricket tournament held by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), established in 2013. The major source of funding comes from Verus International and the first tournament was sponsored by Limacol.
The league has six teams and the fixtures are divided into a group stage and a knockout stage. Each team has one local player, one international franchise player of non-Caribbean origin, and four players under the age of 23. They play ten games in all in the group stage, with three home games.
Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting, Pakistan players Misbah-ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez, Sri Lanka’s retired spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan and New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor participated in the inaugural tournament. Sponsorships have also come in from the WICB’s former partners Digicel and Courts plc.
3. Big Bash League (Australia)
Big Bash League of Australia
The KFC T20 Big Bash League is Australia’s latest domestic T20 cricket tournament, having replaced the Twenty20 Big Bash (also sponsored by KFC). Instead of the previously-structured six state-based teams, the league now has eight teams, which are owned by city-based franchises – such as the Brisbane Heat, the Adelaide Strikers, and so on.
There have been plans to expand the league into more regional areas – such as the Gold Coast, Canberra, Newcastle, etc. But because proper cricketing facilities are not yet in place in those areas, the plans have been dropped for now.
The BBL was in the news recently for all the wrong seasons – owing to a heated confrontation between West Indian Marlon Samuels and Australia’s controversial former leg spinner Shane Warne. Despite this, the tournament still attracts the world’s best- the likes of Pollard, Johan Botha and Chris Gayle have participated in the league, drawing in more crowds.
2. Champions League Twenty20 (India and South Africa)
Champions League T20
Also referred to as the CLT20, this is an annual international Twenty20 cricket competition played between the top domestic teams from the main cricketing nations. It is jointly owned by the BCCI, Cricket Australia and Cricket South Africa.
The league was conceived following the successful first season of the Indian Premier League. The three main owners formulated plans of having an annual international extravaganza in order to tap into the growing popularity of T20, especially after India won the inaugural World T20 Championships in 2007.
Owing to various issues, including a brief standoff between the BCCI and the ECB regarding the selection of ICL players for this tourney, scheduling conflicts with the ICC and the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the tournament finally kicked off in late 2009.
Each team gets a participation fee of $500,000, while the total prize money on offer is $6 million. The top three teams in the IPL, the top two from the Big Bash League and the Ram Slam T20 Challenge (South Africa) and the winner of the CPL T20 in the Caribbean are direct entrants, while the qualifiers have one IPL team, and the winners of the domestic leagues in New Zealand (HRV Cup), Sri Lanka (SLPL), and the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
BBL franchise Sydney Sixers are the current holders of the CLT20 title, while the MS Dhoni-led IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings won it in 2010. Australia’s David Warner has scored the maximum runs in the tournament while Sri Lankan slinger Lasith Malinga has bagged the most wickets.
1. Indian Premier League (India)
Indian Premier League of India
The brainchild of the richest cricket board among the Test-playing nations, the Indian Premier League (IPL) is India’s domestic T20 extravaganza, complete with glitz, glam and moolah. With an estimated brand value of $2.99 billion, as of 2013, it is the most high-profile showpiece in cricketing history.
Conceived in 2008, both as a result of India winning the T20 World crown and in response to the rival Indian Cricket League, the tournament itself features a potpourri of cricket and entertainment – with a few Bollywood personalities having a stake in most of the franchises. Initially, each franchise had an icon player, who would be paid 15% more than the player who earned the most in that team. After the third season, this practice was abolished.
The tournament has been rife with controversies – former BCCI Vice President and the IPL’s first Commissioner Lalit Modi was suspended on charges of impropriety pertaining to the Kochi Tuskers Kerala; numerous spot-fixing allegations, rampant match-fixing and betting scandals, etc. have also affected the tournament adversely.
Nevertheless, it still remains a huge draw as a large number of well-known international players have turned out for various franchises – including the likes of Matthew Hayden, Mike Hussey, Dale Steyn, Jacques Kallis, etc. Retired Indian players such as Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly have also been crowd-pullers, as has been the Little Master – Sachin Tendulkar.
It is also famous for giving prominence to a relatively large number of unknown cricketers – Bhuvneshwar Kumar is one such example.
India middle-order batsman Suresh Raina is the highest run-getter across all six seasons, while Lasith Malinga is the highest wicket-taker. Despite the controversies, and change of sponsors – Pepsi took over from DLF – the IPL still outscores the other leagues in terms of revenues as well as viewership.