CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUALIFIERS

 Qualifiers Preview: CL T20 2011

The Cup of Woes Cometh…

After taking an intense look at all the teams participating in CL 2011, the time has come for the action to begin. Just as well, because just yesterday, the battered and bruised Indian limited overs team returned from the mother of all international tour thrashings. A gap of one day, of course, is more than enough in today’s day and age- and the BCCI and ICCI are doing a great job ‘evenly’ balancing out player schedules with important tournaments, so much so that they have effectively carved out their own personal eulogies on the players’ colorful tombstones in the exclusive graveyard of dramatic athlete burnouts.

Whatever the current situation, pitiful as it is, the qualifiers have begun. The Knight Riders are without their Dark Knight (Gambhir, not SRK) and they face the deceptive Aces today in prime slot television (8 pm). The 4 pm slot is filled by the less glamorous but equally important clash of 2009 finalists T&T with Sri Lankan newcomers Ruhuna.

As the curtains go up on yet another bash-and-dash league of commercial cricketing action, let me give you my infamous predictions of the SIX qualifiers that will take place over three days:

  1. Match: Ruhuna v/s T&T (Group A)
    Venue: Hyderabad
    Predicted result: T&T might, in all probability, even without their star duo of Pollard and Bravo, rack up two important points here. Ruhuna might take a bit of time to warm up and expose their inexperienced Sri-Lankan youngsters to the blinding limelight of World T20 cricket.

  2. Match: Auckland v/s Kolkata (Group B)
    Venue: Hyderabad
    Predicted result: The best bowling side in the qualifiers will take on the most explosive batting side here- and we all know who comes up on top in sticky Indian conditions. Spare a thought for the New Zealand speedsters who, Kings in seaming conditions, might look a disillusioned bunch after this mini-league. But…KKR is without Gautam Gambhir (hence, he will be spared death threats from Indian fans now) and Eoin Morgan. That could be a major blow to their balanced batting lineup so far.
    Still, a KKR win is on the cards- more so because they are used to playing in these conditions previously in the IPL already. Kallis will lead the team into the main tournament.

  3. Match: Leicestershire v/s T&T (Group A)
    Venue: Hyderabad
    Predicted result: English Technicians v/s West Indian flair (or lack of it). An upset here- a second consecutive T&T win here could be a massive step towards the main league. Taking factors like physical fitness and adaptability into consideration, the unassuming West Indian side could come out trumps.

  4. Match: Auckland v/s Somerset (Group B)
    Venue: Hyderabad
    Predicted result: Tough one to predict. Even without Trescothick, a star-studded Somerset side could make up for their final loss against Leicestershire up North, and chug on with some momentum that their illustrious colleagues may not seem to have. Hence, a Somerset Win against a fighting Auckland side is a probability.

  5. Match: Leicestershire v/s Ruhuna (Group A)
    Venue: Hyderabad
    Predicted result: The biggest upset of the qualifying stages so far- a Sri Lankan win, simply because the team is mysterious and not many have seen or heard much about the players so far. Also, they will adapt to sub-continental conditions better after one game, and a 3 hour slash-and-dash could be an ideal recipe for them. The English Champions will be left reeling.

  6. Match: Kolkata v/s Somerset (Group B)
    Venue: Hyderabad
    Predicted result: The final game, between the two better teams of the league. Nevertheless, considering the sheer explosiveness of the KKR line-up, I’d go for a Somerset WIN here, and hence first qualification into the MAIN tournament. This is a bit of an upset, but not really, if you look at the tendency of KKR in the latter stages of any tense league.

Taking these predicted results into consideration, T&T will qualify as the top team of Group A with two wins. Somerset will qualify as the top team of group B with two wins out of two.
The third spot will belong to the team that is the BETTER of the two runner-up teams in both groups. So it is either an enigmatic Ruhuna side from group A or favorites KKR from group B. Net Run-rate will be taken into account, and I predict KKR just about edging an unfortunate Ruhuna side to the main league.

Hence, it will be T&T, KKR and Somerset qualifying for the CL T20 league stages to play amongst the Super Kings, the Royal Challengers, the Mumbai Indians, Warriors, Cobras, Blues, South Australia.

They will do battle for two weeks, after which one team (or three players, going by current injury trends) will be left standing as (hopefully) the new Champion Club side of the world.

Let the games begin.

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