Within just two rounds of qualifying matches, the two teams (out of 4) to join the automatic list of 8 teams have already been determined.
With the Sunrisers, Wolves, Volts and Maroons each having played 2 games already- the third round of games have been rendered redundant, thanks to some standout team performances.
While the Sunrisers were widely expected to qualify due to familiar home conditions, the second team to qualify has been a surprise. Not so much, actually, if you look at their recent T20 record.
The Otago Volts (NZ) entered the Champions League for the first time in 2013, on the back of 11 consecutive wins in their own domestic T20 tournament that they ended up winning. 11 straight wins in T20 is a huge deal, especially with nobody but McCullum and Ryan Ten as their star players.
They have now made it 13 wins in a row- easily beating the Wolves in their first game, and demolishing the Maroons a day later with the arrival of Ryan Ten Doeschate from England. Jetlag was the last thing on his mind, as the Associate Player of the year destroyed the Maroons with a belligerent 64 while chasing a tricky 156 after losing their captain McCullum quickly.
The team has played in India like a home away from home, and has impressed everyone with their stable line-up, a heady mix of all-rounders and hard hitters.
The Volts will take on the Dhawan-powered Sunrisers, who have waltzed past their two games too- beating the Maroons on back of a Dhawan half-century, and then beating the Wolves on back of…another Dhawan half century. There is nothing that man cannot do right now, coming off a record-breaking India ‘A’ tour of South Africa- and there is arguably no better batsman in world cricket right now. Having played just one test so far, he has gone on to star in the Champions Trophy in ODIs and has dragged his Sunrisers team to the top 4 in the IPL after they tanked as the Chargers for 3 consecutive years.
This game will mathematically be irrelevant, with both teams already having qualified for the group stages- but one of them would like to remain unbeaten. It doesn’t matter which group they find themselves in, with both groups evenly balanced with strong T20 outfits.
In a true dead rubber, after all the fuss and cry about visas and accommodation, the Faisalabad Wolves- led by Misbah, who has just come off a tremendously disappointing tour of Zimbabwe- has continued his losing captaincy ways, despite his ability to survive consistently while various teams fall around him at the crease. The Wolves have been rather tame after all the hype, losing both their opening games, crashing out with the other Asian team, the Kandurata Maroons- who arguably do not deserve to be here on basis of a quick dash 3-game T20 tournament to determine the Champions League team. The combination of Misbah+Ajmal and Sangakkara+Tharanga+Kulasekera+Thirimanne has fizzled into dry smoke, unable to match the consistency and experience Butlers, Rutherfords, Mishras, Sammys, Patels and Steyns.
India will now enter the competition with all 4 of its IPL teams competing in the group stages, as compared to none from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and England.
Hence, the final 10 (IND-4, AUS-2, SA-2, NZ-1, WI-1) teams in the group stages of the 2013 CLT20 are:
Mumbai Indians, Chennai SuperKings, Sunrisers, Rajasthan Royals, Perth Scorchers, Brisbane Heat, Trinidad&Tobago, Titans, Lions, Otago Volts.