Champions League T20 PREVIEW: The COUNTDOWN begins
Teams: South Australia (West End Redbacks)
New South Wales (SpeedBlitz Blues)
Welcome, everyone, to that time of the year when T20 cricket trumps Test Cricket and the One-day format for a couple of weeks (other than the 10 weeks during the IPL)- fortunately so, for most Indian and Sri Lankan cricket fans thirsting for a victory or two, and maybe a dash of excitement. Of course, Indian fans beg to differ- and they will claim, rightly so, that the T20 format was alive and kicking even during their infamous Test Series against England.
Before we dive right into another ‘world’ tournament of ICC proportions (sorry, BCCI), we will be doing a preview on each of the countries participating in this prestigious champions tournament. In short, there is no place for losers here, bluntly put. A preview of the countries, because, contrary to franchise opinions- each team ACTUALLY represents a country and their regions, depending on where they come from.
Needless to say, the Franchises (top teams from each country) will be the ones described here, in minor detail, just to get you all in the mood for some thrashing and bashing. Here we go, then:
In the Southern Corner, we have a country that nobody is unfamiliar with, a country very familiar with the term ‘champions’ and a country where Beer replaces water quite often- Australia.
The two teams in question are the winners and runners-up of the prestigious KFC T20 bash (The Australian version of apna IPL):
New South Wales: (Runners-up)
More popularly known as the Speedblitz Blues, this team is only one of two in Australia that has managed to break the dominant stranglehold of the mighty Victiorian team over a period of the last six years- by winning the KFC Bash once back in 2008-09. Victoria were at the peak of their powers back then, and the Blues then went on to win the Champion’s league too- clearly stamping Australia’s dominance over any form of World Cricket. Inspite of finishing only third this year, the Blues are the Australian equivalent of, say, the Royal Challengers- they know how to win the big ones, but invariably end up finishing second best. Beating the Tasmanian Tigers in a shootout for the final will rank as one of their highs this season, but they have some unfinished business and plenty to prove-
Shane Watson will just be available in time for the tournament after the Lankan tour, and will hopefully be in a good mood considering the fact that his ‘main’ team Rajasthan Royals aren’t playing. With players like Katich, Stuart Clark and Hauritz- the squad bears a startling resemblance to Australia’s retirement plan gallery- but the presence (and availability) of Smith, Warner (incidentally their highest scorer this season), Cummins (the highest wicket taker in the bash this season), Hughes and O’Keefe duly balances things out for this experienced T20 team.
Warning: Fire Within !
Initially responsible for dragging a relatively unknown Kieron Pollard into the limelight two years ago in a game that they pulled an ‘India’ in, the Blues are still considered to be a big-match team, and come knockout stages- apart from the SuperKings (depending on Dhoni’s current mood), the Blues are a safe bet to reach their second Champions League final.
An interesting factoid: The Blues are the only team to have won the league (2009)- apart from the Superkings, of course.
South Australia: (Winners)
It has taken five seasons for a gradually maturing South Australian team to come to terms with the fact that there is a position above 4th place. But the wait has been worth it. Exploding onto the scene in 2010 (easily the best team until the final), the Redbacks have finally sealed their status as one of Australia’s premiere domestic teams. Initially dismissed as a bits-and-pieces team by many of their critics (primarily cocky Victiorian fans in rowdy bars), the Redbacks have actually lived up to their flashy reputation (and classy name)- and were once again the best team in the 2011 edition having lost only one game out of 7.
Another Southern Story
Equipped with the tournament’s highest scorer, the unassuming Daniel Harris, as well as the upcoming hard-to-ignore star bowling trio of Lyon (Sri Lankans will know him now), the talented English spinner Rashid and the Deccan hope Daniel Christian- all this considerable Redback team has to do now is live upto their reputation and play according to their strength on paper. Of course, the Indian Cricket team has been in a mood to prove how invariably tough that is lately, but this is Australian cricket. They exit their mother’s wombs as big-match players destined for national greatness. Also, there is the small matter of having the World’s fastest bowler on your side, a little-known Rajasthani villager named Shaun Tait (better known as Shane Warne’s long-lost secret weapon)