Big guns look to set stage ablaze
Cricket Champions League T20: Four Indian teams will add a dash of colour and intensity to the battle between the best clubs
After their not so memorable outing in the just-concluded ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka, it will be a test of character for the Indian boys in the Champions League Twenty20 which enters the business stage from Saturday.
There are four Indian Premier League teams in the fray in the tournament, including defending champions Mumbai Indians and this season’s IPL winners Kolkata Knight Riders. The other two IPL sides are Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Daredvils.
But the interesting thing to watch in the tournament will be the desperation of Indian cricketers, who will be eager to erase the scars of their Super Eights elimination in the World T20.
While KKR and DD have been placed in Group A, the other two IPL teams — MI and Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led CSK — are in Group B, raising hopes of an all-India clash in the semis, as the top two teams from each group will qualify for the knockout stage.
However, it won’t be easy task for the Indian outfits as they will be up against some of the best T20 sides in the world.
And with Titans and Highveld Lions, both from South Africa, enjoying home advantage, the task for the Indian units will be even more difficult. Apart from the two African teams, the championship also hosts Australia’s Perth Scorchers, which boasts of players like Shaun Marsh and Herschelle Gibbs in their ranks.
The other Aussie side in the fray is Sydney Sixers and with the presence of Shane Watson along with young pace sensation Mitchell Starc and skipper Brad Haddin in their line-up, they definitely look the side to be watched out for.
The Indian challenge in the tournament will start with a battle between two IPL biggies — KKR and Daredevils.
While the Gautam Gambhir-led KKR would be out there to prove that their victory in the IPL V was no fluke, Daredevils under new skipper, Mahela Jayawardene, would like to stamp their authority on the tournament in which they have so far remained underachievers.
The Daredevils boasts of some big names like David Warner and Kevin Pietersen in their ranks, and with Virender Sehwag being declared fit for the tournament, the Delhi side definitely has what it takes to be the champions.
The tournament will also be an opportunity for Sri Lanka’s Jayawardene to redeem himself after his side lost in the final of the World T20 Championship to the West Indies earlier this month.
The 35-year-old was entrusted with the responsibility of leading the side after Sehwag opted out of the job to concentrate on his batting.
Jayawardene, however, stepped down as the captain of Sri Lanka’s T20 side after losing to the West Indies and it remains to be seen how he handles the new responsibility.
KKR, on the other side, possesses a healthy mix of Indian and foreign players. Jacques Kallis and Brendon McCullum have been phenomenal for KKR and the team has really done well under Gambhir.
The other Indian franchisees to look out for in the championship are Dhoni-led CSK and Harbhajan Sigh-led MI.
Both the teams have tasted success in this championship earlier, with CSK winning the 2010 edition and MI lifting the trophy a year later.
A glance at the strengths, weaknesses and key players of the teams
* Kolkata Knight Riders: The IPL champions will be strong contenders in the Champions League too. A set of explosive and experienced batsmen and a more than handy bowling unit make the Gautam Gambhir-led team a frontrunner in the title race. But Gambhir’s lack of form with the bat could be a worry for them.
Key players: Gautam Gambhir, Sunil Narine, Brendon McCullum, Jacques Kallis, Yusuf Pathan.
* Delhi Daredevils: They have a dynamic outfit -- batting and bowling departments teeming with a clutch of destructive players. But Delhi’s biggest enemy could be their inconsistency.
Key players: Mahela Jayawardene, Kevin Pietersen, David Warner, Virender Sehwag, Morne Morkel.
* Auckland Aces: They came through the CLT20 qualifiers grind, and they are a battle-hardened team familiar with the conditions. But many of their key players are well past 30, and it remains to be seen how long they can maintain the intensity.
Key players: Azhar Mahmood, Kyle Mills, Martin Guptill, Andre Adams.
* Perth Scorchers: An initial glance will not reveal the real strength of the Aussies, and that, in fact, could give you the picture of a team filled with players past their sell-by date. But Marcus North’s side could spring a few surprises.
Key players: Shaun Marsh, Herschelle Gibbs, Brad Hogg, Simon Katich.
* Titans: Familiarity is the biggest strength of the South Africans. They know the conditions here very well, having played on these grounds for a lifetime. But in batting they are over-dependent on AB de Villiers, and lost Marchant de Lange, a genuine pacer, to injury, reducing the effectiveness of their bowling unit.
Key players: AB de Villiers, Farhaan Behardien, Roelof van der Merwe.
* Chennai Super Kings: They are the most decorated franchise across the IPL and the CLT20. M S Dhoni’s side is in possession of an array of brilliant T20 players, but the challenge in front of them is to lift their game to match the expectations.
Key players: M S Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Mike Hussey, R Ashwin, Ben Hilfenhaus.
* Mumbai Indians: Like Super Kings, the Mumbai team too has a set of players who can set the field ablaze, and they have a passionate skipper in Harbhajan Singh. But their big-match temperament is susceptible in spite of their triumph in the last edition of the tournament at home.
Key players: Sachin Tendulkar, Richard Levi, Lasith Malinga, Kieron Pollard, Rohit Sharma, Thisara Perera.
* Sydney Sixers: They were the inaugural edition CLT20 champions under the banner of New South Wales. A well-rounded unit with the right mix of players, the Sydney siders is a force to reckon with in the competition. A team of big-hitting batsmen and fine pacers, Sixers need to bring their A game more often to the fore.
Key players: Shane Watson, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Steven Smith.
* Highveld Lions: Like Titans, this South African outfit too could fall back upon the F-factor. They have the reputation of being a hard-nosed T20 side in the South African circles, but can they match the firepower of the teams from India and Australia?
Key players: Neil McKenzie, Alviro Petersen, Dirk Nannes, Sohail Tanvir.
* Yorkshire: They are the babies among men, having just Phil Jaques and Ryan Sidebottom as players who celebrated more than 30 birthdays. They are an agile squad comprising a few promising players and a few others who honed their skills in the competitive environment of English county cricket. But overall, they are an inexperienced side, and that could count against them in the tournament.
Key players: Gary Ballance, Joe Root, Ryan Sidebottom, Adil Rashid.
Timings in IST, Live on STAR Cricket
Group A: Auckland Aces, Delhi Daredevils, Kolkata Knight
Riders, Perth Scorchers, Titans
Group B: Chennai Super Kings, Highveld Lions,
Mumbai Indians, Sydney Sixers, Yorkshire
Oct 13: 5 pm: Titans vs Scorchers, Centurion
9 pm: Knight Riders vs Daredevils, Centurion
Oct 14: 5 pm: Super Kings vs Sixers, Johannesburg
9 pm: Lions vs Mumbai Indians,
Oct 15: 9 pm: Auckland Aces vs Knight Riders, Cape Town
Oct 16: 5 pm: Sixers vs Yorkshire, Cape Town
9 pm: Super Kings vs Lions, Cape Town
Oct 17: 5 pm: Auckland Aces vs Titans, Durban
9 pm: Knight Riders vs Scorchers, Durban
Oct 18: 5 pm: Lions vs Sixers, Cape Town
9 pm: Mumbai Indians vs Yorkshire, Cape Town
Oct 19: 9 pm: Auckland Aces vs Daredevils, Durban
Oct 20: 5 pm: Lions vs Yorkshire, Johannesburg
9 pm: Super Kings vs Mumbai Indians,
Oct 21: 5 pm: Scorchers v Daredevils, Cape Town
9 pm: Knight Riders v Titans, Cape Town
Oct 22: 5 pm: Super Kings v Yorkshire, Durban
9 pm: Sixers v Mumbai Indians, Durban
Oct 23: 5 pm: Auckland Aces v Scorchers, Centurion
9 pm: Daredevils v Titans, Centurion