A bit of fun, a bit of soul-searching

PREVIEW: The Champions League T20 kicks off Tuesday in Mohali with the qualifiers.

How will these two fare?

Qualifier Fixtures | Main Draw

In its fifth edition, the Champions League Twenty20 continues to be a wonder of the cricketing world.

The tournament that kicks off on Tuesday has failed to whet the appetite of the cricket-loving public of India who prefer their favourite IPL teams over this crush of international T20 clubs. So evident has been the audience’s icy response, the title has had three different sponsors in four years. 

But as a money-making exercise, the Champions League comes up a winner. The BCCI had earned Rs. 69.28 crore from the 2012 CLT20 held in South Africa — a jump of Rs. 21.65 crore from the previous year.

This may explain why the prize money for the tournament continues to be an astonishing $2.5 million, a shade under the $3 million offered to India for winning the 2011 World Cup, and well above the $1 million won by the West Indies at the 2012 World Twenty20.

LAST CHANCE TO SEE


The tournament marks the last outings in coloured clothing for two of India’s greatest. Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid have both concluded their ODI and IPL careers but find themselves amidst the action again via their teams, the Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals, who’ve qualified for the CLT20. Rajasthan will have it tough this year, having lost several key players to the spot-fixing scandal this year. Mumbai have been inconsistent over the seasons and need to show they can press on with the advantage of having won the IPL this year.

A FIRST FOR PAKISTAN

Spicing up the group are the Misbah-led Faisalabad Wolves. We will also see the Faisalabad Wolves, the first team to play the tournament in India, after years of diplomatic quarrelling. They’ve come after many visa problems and now they need to win over Indians fans, some of whom are sure to be partisan. In doing so, they’ll improve on the record of the Sialkot Stallions who’d failed to pass the qualifiers in 2012 when the tournament was held in South Africa.

FAVOURITES

There are three IPL teams in the main draw with the possibility of one more – the Sunrisers Hyderabad – joining them after the qualifiers. In a 10-team event, this stacks the odds decidedly in favour of Indian teams. Leading them would be the MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings, who’ve been nothing if not incredibly consistent. Dhoni would return from an extended break, fresh for a new season. 

FROM AUSTRALIA

Australian teams have done well in this tournament. The NSW Blues won in 2009 and made the semis in 2011. The Redbacks also made the semis in 2010. And the Sydney Sixers won in 2012. This year’s entrants are Perth Scorchers and Brisbane Heat, winner and runners-up of the Big Bash League.

FROM SOUTH AFRICA

The Alviro Petersen-led Highveld Lions and the Jacques Rudolph-led Titans are bringing a string of internationals to the tournament. AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel, Roelof van der Merwe and Quinton de Kock will boost their chances, but can they go all the way?

PUNCHING BAGS?

Over the last four seasons, teams from New Zealand and Sri Lanka have performed poorly in the CLT20, failing to reach the knockouts. Otago have the McCullum brothers among an impressive line-up and need to play spin well. The Kandurata Maroons from Sri Lanka will be led by Kumar Sangakkara after SLC swayed him with notions of nationalism and loyalty. The Maroons have several internationals so expect a good show from them.

The same can’t be said about Trinidad & Tobago, who’ve been crowd favourites with their athleticism, skill and the ability to engage the crowds. They’ll miss two key players: Dwayne Bravo will turn out for Chennai while Kieron Pollard is with Mumbai. Denesh Ramdin’s leadership skills will be strained when he brings his rag-tag bunch to India.

BEYOND CLT20


Another point of interest in the tournament is the form and fitness of key Indian players who’ll not be participating in any of the India ‘A’ games and the Challenger Trophy which clash with the CLT20 fixtures. There will be eyes on Harbhajan Singh who has fallen out of favour with the Indian selectors. But mostly, there will be eyes on Tendulkar. The Indian legend finds himself in the final days of a great career as critics ask questions about his relevance to the Indian team. How ironic that he seeks to answer those questions in a tournament that searches for relevance itself.

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