CLT20 2014: Main Draw & Predictions

Defending Champions Mumbai Indians’ questionable blast-off tactics during the IPL Auctions earlier this year were once again exposed in a tournament they have always excelled at. The Pollard-led Indians were eliminated unceremoniously by the Kiwi team Northern District, thereby letting the Lions and Knights (District) qualify for the main draw. Another toothless batting performance by the Indians led to its downfall, while the Knights look the best of the rest so far. 

Here are the 10 main teams in groups A and B:
 
GROUP A
Perennial Indian favorites, led by the most successful T20 captain ever, Dhoni. Most of their local players are also limited-overs international players, and arguably all of them are in form after coming off a successful ODI series in England. Moreover, with Du Plessis in such commanding form, they are going to be the team to beat. Dhoni, Raina, Jadeja, Ashwin, Mohit, McCullum and Dwayne Smith form the core of the ‘unbeatables’. 
Prediction: FINALS
 
Kolkata Knight Riders
The only other team apart from CSK to have won the IPL twice, KKR are reigning IPL Champions, but have under-performed in this tournament. They are in the same group as CSK, and will fancy their chances, but are led by out-of-form Gambhir. If Uthappa and Pandey can find the form that helped them win the title, they will be contenders. But one doesn’t see them going all the way, with only Narine as the world-class bowler in their side. Once his 4 overs are up, or if he has an off day, it’s often curtains for the team. 
Prediction: GROUP STAGES
 
Dolphins
The biggest surprise and underdogs of the tournament, Dolphins consist of a bunch of talented players barely heard of outside their own native states. Experienced veteran Van Wyk is captain and wicket-keeper known for his destructive batting skills, while medium-pacer Kyle Abott is the only other known entity. The absence of regulars like David Miller (Kings XI Punjab) and Tsotsobe will further hamper their ambitions in the Group Of Death. They will do well not to finish last. 
Prediction: GROUP STAGES
 
Perth Scorchers
Current Big Bash Champions and one of the most consistent Aussie T20 teams with 3 finals in a row. They aren’t new to CLT20, and stand a good chance with names like Voges, Agar, Coulter-Nile, Beer, new star Mitchell Marsh and Pakistani bowler Yasir Arafat. They’re not the strongest on paper, but could gel to form a solid T20 outfit against the likes of KKR and Dolphins. Nobody in this group can beat CSK except perhaps KKR on a good day. 
Prediction: SEMIS
 
Lahore Lions
Winning 2 of their 3 qualifying games will do a world of good for them, especially after qualifying over Mumbai Indians. They remain volatile and unpredictable like most Pakistani teams, but Cheema and Riaz make them one of the most formidable bowling sides of the tournament. 
 
GROUP B
Hobart Hurricanes
First time in CL cricket. Apart from Mr. Sania Mirza (Malik), the team has some useful T20 players like Paine (captain), Mumbai-reject Blizzard, CSK-reject Bollinger, CSK-favorite Hilfenhaus, Ben Dunk and Xavier Doherty. On paper, they will bank on their IPL stars, but could have done with the services of their regular captain and current Kings XI captain George Bailey. 
Prediction: GROUP STAGES
 
Kings XI Punjab
The fairyale team of IPL 2014 will fancy their chances against the Hurricanes with Aussies like Maxwell, Bailey, Marsh and Johnson. But it is their young local stars like Akshar Patel, Rishi Dhawan, Manan Vohra that will define the success of this team, with experienced internationals like Sehwag and Balaji to mould the team. Meanwhile, Saha’s whirlwind century in the IPL final is still fresh in the memories of many, and he will look to contribute further to enhance the chances of his debut CL team. 
Prediction: FINAL
 
Barbados Tridents
The sole WI representative is relatively unknown compared to the usual T&T or Guyana teams in CL cricket, but with a few interesting overseas players like Chigumbura, James Franklin, old warhorse Neil McKenzie and Dilshan Munaweera, they will probably give a few complacent teams a run for their money. Ravi Rampaul will be dangerous in the attack, but they virtually have none of the WI batting stars most IPL teams comprise of. 
Prediction: GROUP STAGES
 
Cape Cobras 
Thin on bowling, but heavy on all-rounders and batting, this Champion team has the likes of Amla, Ontong, Duminy, Kemp, Levi, Philander and Langeveldt in their line-up, which automatically makes them a serious threat in this group. Duminy and Kemp have the ability to tear apart attacks in contrasting manners, while Amla’s calm at the top will propel the South African Champions into the reckoning early on in every game. 
Prediction: GROUP STAGES
 
Northern District
The best of the qualifying teams, this New Zealand outfit has already shown how strong it is as a team against the likes of Mumbai Indians and Lahore Lions. It has beaten all its Asian competition on subcontintent pitches, thereby becoming one of the leading overseas teams in the competition already. With Kane Williamson reaching world-class mode, Southee and Styris in God-mode, this team is one of the favourites. 
Prediction: SEMIS
 

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