2012 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE T20: IT’S HERE!

Preview-

Exactly 2 days after West Indies’ WT20 win in Sri Lanka, another major ICC T20 tournament begins in South Africa. The 2012 Champions League WT20, much like last year, begins with a qualifying tournament- that leads into the main draw starting October 13th.

The 14 teams that enter this prestigious tournament, for once, though not in world view for a major chunk of the year, will also come from Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Here is a brief preview of the squads that will battle it out for domestic T20’s ultimate prize:
For the record, India’s very own Mumbai Indians are defending champions.

Auckland (NZ)

Status– Qualifying Pool

New Zealand domestic T20 Champions, Auckland will rely heavily on their heady mix of experience and more experience. Players like Andre Adams (37), Azhar Mahmood (37), Gareth Hopkins (Captain, 36) and Chris Martin will combine with the faded likes of the once-mega-talented Lou Vincent (33), Kyle Mills and Martin Guptill to give a good account of themselves in the qualifying pool. If through, they could spring a few surprises in the main draw, especially on the hard fast pitches of South Africa.

Chennai SuperKings (IND)

Status– Main Draw

Two time IPL Champions and 4-time IPL Finalists. 2010 Champions League holders. The glittery prize cabinet of this team seems to have lost little sheen over the years, with 2011 being the only year where they aren’t holding any of the major trophies after being pipped by KKR in the IPL Final. A wounded Dhoni will try to make up for yet another WT T20 failure, by playing in a comfort zone he is familiar with- along side his good old friends like Ashwin, Raina, Badri and Vijay. It remains to be seen if the important foreign players like Bravo, Morkel and Faff have the motivation to play for a domestic franchise after being put through the grinder in an overly-patriotic World T20.

Delhi Daredevils (IND)

Status– Main Draw

The favorites in IPL 2012 ended with a whimper, thanks to captain Sehwag’s shocking decision to drop their best bowler Morkel from the semi-finals. With Viru injured, the heartbroken Jayawardene will take over as leader- equipped with great resources like KP, Chand, Russell, Pathan, Warner and Yadav. It could be time to make amends, and you’d be hard-pressed to see a more balanced team this year.

Hampshire (ENG)

Status– Qualifying

Winners of the Friends Life T20 Cup in England, Champions Hampshire will look to lock heads with the best in the world. Led by Mascarenhas, the squad boasts of mostly home-bred players that have learned their skills domestically- with Afridi, Maxwell contributing to the overseas rooster. A long shot, considering the form of both these players, this team will depend majorly on their ability to gel and get through the tough qualifying stages.

Kolkata Knight Riders (IND)

Status– Main Draw

Champions of IPL 2012, KKR finally head into a tournament with their heads held high- a rarity that could not be imagined just a year ago. Led by Gambhir, who has promptly lost form after the tournament, this KKR squad needs to pull together quickly and give a decent account of the league with a lot more than reputation at stake. Players like Kallis, Lee, Yusuf Pathan, Shakib and McCullum need to regain pride and form, and combine with the potent Narine, Bisla and Abdulla to form a lethal combination of the large-hearted warriors that they were in IPL 2012.

Lions (SA)

Status– Main Draw

A relatively unknown Squad from South Africa, will rub shoulders with Mumbai Indians in their first league game at Jo’Burg. A few familiar names like Nannes, Alviro Peterson, and Sohail Tanvir find themselves in this underrated team, but they will no doubt start as underdogs in the glamorous world of CL T20. More knowledge will be gained about this team as they bear their fangs early in the group stages- thanks to the immensely popular Mumbai Indians, who are very capable of being upset early in a tournament.

Mumbai Indians (IND)

Status– Main Draw

Exempt from Qualifying after winning the 2011 CLT20 tournament, Mumbai Indians will not be led by Harbhajan Singh like last year. Sachin Tendulkar returns to the team, hoping to make up for a long period of relative inactivity- though one doesn’t know how much that could profit the team in defending their title. Players like Levi, Smith and Malinga will need to step up after a disappointing World Cup campaign, if the Indians stand any chance of going through their group.

Perth Scorchers (AUS)

Status– Main Draw

Inevitably, the focus will always remain on an Aussie T20 outfit- considering the form of their national team. A change from the usual Victoria, NSW participation, it will be the Perth Scorchers this year- led by Marcus North- plying their skills in a tournament that Aussies have succeeded in over the years. Collingwood, Beer, Gibbs, Hogg, Katich and both the Marshs form the backbone of this experienced team, and will pose severe questions of opponents on pitches that could favour them.

Sialkot Stallions (PAK)

Status– Qualifying

A first by ICC standards, and the first Pakistani team to be competing on this stage. The Stallions, led by Shoaib Mailk, will feature massive talents like Nazir, Naved Hasan, new hope Raza Hasan, and recently banned Abdur Rehman. Weakened a bit by a deflating T20 World Cup, their predictability certainly can’t be trusted, but word has it that this could be a team that blows the firmer and more established favorites out of reckoning.

Sydney Sixers (AUS)

Status– Main Draw

Led by Brad Haddin, the Sixers are- on paper- the stronger of the two Aussie teams. With Cummins, Lumb, Smith, Starc and, hold your breath, SHANE WATSON- it’d be hard to prevent the team from reaching the final four- after which Watson would love to make amends for after a shattering defeat by the Windies in the World Cup. This is my team to watch out for.

Titans (SA)

Status– Main Draw

Arguably the better-known SA team here, led by Jaarsveld, this is a team that features the enormous capabilities of AB De Villiers. Others like Rudolph, Thomas and Behardien will try their best to keep up, but they will miss the services of quick De Lange this year. Could be a handful on home pitches.

Trinidad and Tobago (WI)

Status– Qualifying

A pity that most of their players might have pulled out due to disputes, but still, the team belongs to a World Champion country now. Led by Ramdin, it features an impressive array of players like Badree, Darren Bravo, Barath, Cooper, Ganga and Rampaul. Missing Pollard and Dwayne Bravo, of course, but the firepower will need to be summoned to blast through qualifying first.

Uva Next (SL)

Status– Qualifying

The lone Sri Lankan team in here, and inaugural winners of the SPL T20 2012, Uva Next features forgotten souls like Kandamby, Fernando and Tharanga. But an added dose of foreign blood like Chanderpaul, Oram, Alam and Gul could spark to life something of an underdog story.

Yorkshire (ENG)

Status– Qualifying

Slotted together with Uva Next, T&T and Yorkshire in the same qualifying group, they have a tough mountain to climb- with regular domestic veterans like Gale, Sidebottom and Miller. The pullout of Bairstow won’t make much of a difference, but these England teams have a lot to play for after having quite a disappointing Test, ODI and T20 year so far.

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