There is a reason I like the Champions League very much and it has very little to do with the IPL (which I am quite happy to say I enjoy) or indeed the fact that it airs on ESPN-Star sports (with whom I have had a very long relationship). I like the Champions League because it gives the simple, hardworking cricketer a platform to showcase himself. Bombarded as we are by international cricket, those that play just below the stars, and are actually pretty good themselves, play in anonymity, before small crowds; they become a statistic in First Class records that only their relatives will see.
These are people who must make the most of the opportunity they get and so you get to see a fantastic range of emotions. You felt for the Auckland Aces, you rejoiced with Somerset and as always, you get carried away by the energy and joy that Trinidad and Tobago bring to their cricket. There is a charm in seeing them play on the big stage, giving the fancied teams a run for their money, occasionally beating them and giving themselves a story to tell for many years. For cricket to be rich (there was a time when "rich" meant more than just owning money!), a strong club tournament is essential.
This year I expect the tournament to be even better than in earlier years because of the qualification process. You could argue, and I suspect you wouldn't be entirely wrong, that this was a means of introducing another IPL team into the tournament. But it has also ensured that there are unlikely to be any terribly one-sided games as we have seen in the past with teams from Sussex, Guyana, Otago and Wayamba.
The South African teams with their athleticism and attitude will be hard to beat. Every time I look at the South African franchise teams I wonder why, as a national team, they aren't a superior force. A player like Roelof van der Merwe should walk into any side but he remains a fringe player for them. He has performed with bat and ball for his team, Somerset, and is one of the top-rated players on the Castrol Index, not least after his impressive showing against KKR yesterday. Maybe in club sides, players get the role they won't get with other stars around and revel in it. Look at Alfonso Thomas or Samuel Badree to name just two I have enjoyed watching.
It is with the joy that a book lover feels when he discovers a gem from an unknown author that I sit down to see the Champions League.
(Harsha Bhogle, is writing in his role as a Castrol Index spokesperson.)