CLT20: No favourites, but a cracker in the offing

Royals take on Super Kings in the first semifinal on Friday.

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JAIPUR:
Two formidable Indian outfits will take the field in the first Champions League T20 semifinal on Friday with neither appearing to be an outright favourite. While the home team Rajasthan Royals are on a 12-match winning streak at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Chennai Super Kings have arguably been the strongest side to have emerged from six years of the Indian Premier League.

MS Dhoni's Super Kings were unbeaten in the league stage before Trinidad & Tobago pulled the rug from under their feet on Wednesday night in what was a must-win game for the Caribbeans. But Royals will be foolish to read too much in a game that Chennai, having already qualified for the semis, may have approached relatively lightly.

Chennai are a super-solid batting line-up and have in-form personnel in Suresh Raina, Michael Hussey Dhoni, who had earlier ignited the tournament with a 19-ball 63 against Hyderabad Sunrisers. So cracking has been the form of these three that the failures of the rest - S. Badrinath and M. Vijay chiefly - have not really mattered.

Not that Super Kings’ bowling is any less imposing. They have outright match-winners in off-spinner R. Ashwin and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, besides the pace firepower of Jason Holder, Dwayne Bravo and Albie Morkel.

Home dominance


To say that Rajasthan’s biggest asset remains their acquaintance with the local conditions would also not be fair. Bereft of big names, Rahul Dravid’s side have been served well by youngsters Stuart Binny, Sanju Samson and Ajinkya Rahane, with the reassurance of Aussies Shane Watson and Brad Hodge waiting in the dug-out.

It is their team effort in the field, however, that has turned many a game. Medium pacer Kevon Cooper and the 41-year-old leggie Pravin Tambe have troubled most teams, while Watson’s steadiness and left-arm fast bowler James Faulkner’s angle has come in handy.

The winner of this semifinal will take on the victor of the Mumbai Indian-Trinidad & Tobago semifinal, in the final that will be held in New Delhi on October 6.

Rajasthan Royals squad:
Rahul Dravid (c), Stuart Binny, Kevon Cooper, James Faulkner, Brad Hodge, Vikramjeet Malik, Ashok Menaria, Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Samson, Rahul Shukla, Shaun Tait, Pravin Tambe, Siddharth Trivedi, Shane Watson and Dishant Yagnik.

Chennai Super Kings squad:
MS Dhoni (c), R Ashwin, S Badrinath, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis, Jason Holder, Michael Hussey, Imtiaz Ahmed, Ravindra Jadeja, Albie Morkel, Chris Morris, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha, Mohit Sharma, Murali Vijay.

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