Team England in CL T20 2011:
Before we begin our highly non-analytical breakdown of the second country England- mainly the two domestic teams taking part in the Champion’s league (qualifying)- let me give you an interesting factoid:
The premier domestic T20 tournament in England that decides the teams participating in this tournament is called the Friends Life T20. No, it is not an insurance scheme- though many of the younger Indian players will beg to differ nowadays. It is a 2 year old tournament, and has been won by the Hampshire Royals (original, indeed) and the Leicestershire Foxes this year. Runners up- Somerset. They call themselves the Sabres. How’s that for originality? (no, seriously, much better than the 10 Royal derivatives we have in the IPL)
Unfortunately for the English teams, both of them must bear the ignominy of having to ‘qualify’ for the main stages- along with other lower teams like KKR, Trinidad&Tobago, Auckland and Ruhuna (Sri Lanka). Why, you ask? Ask the (B)ICC(I).
Somerset (Somerset Sabres)
Another interesting factoid: BOTH the semi-finals of the Friends T20 tournament were decided in a super over. Both of them, yes. And of course, both of them were also calculated by the much-loved D&L method. Somerset, there, may have been a wee bit lucky after having to endure a Shahid Afridi onslaught in their semi against Hampshire. And this was, despite finishing fourth (the last qualifying spot) in the South Zone. That’s like KKR going through to the final. Unbelievable, no?
Suppah Spinnah set for Summah
Here’s the bad news for Somerset: Kieron Pollard has chosen Mumbai Indians over them, for obvious non-financial reasons. Alfonso Thomas, Pune’s most expensive (and experienced) bowler, is their captain. That doesn’t necessarily qualify as bad news, but never mind. Alex Barrow, the young 19 year old keeper, will be replacing their prime player Craig Kieswetter- thanks to India and Sri Lankan bowling’s utmost incompetence in seaming English conditions (which, in turn, let the Kieswetter star rise over the last few months). He has been rewarded an ECB contract, which sees him play the T20s against the West Indies at the same time. Pollard? He isn’t West Indian, is he? Mainly, Marcus Trescothick, the ex-English batsman with a stress disorder, also the Somerset batting mainstay- will obviously not be travelling abroad. When was India abroad to the English, technically? We’re talking colonially.
Good news: Murali Kartik, another Pune benchwarmer, will be leading the spin attack in favourable conditions. Van Der Merwe (a Daredevil ‘victim’) will be plying his trade more successfully as part of this team. Arul Suppiah, the English Spinner, will be looking to build on his best figures of 6-5 this season. George Dokrell, the Irish (of course) teen bowling sensation will learn the hard ways of Indian cricket pitches.
In short, Somerset will be lucky enough to get out of the qualifiers- probably as the third and final team, knowing their track record of being the dogged underdogs without much to show for.
Leicestershire (Leicestershire Foxes)
After finishing second to the Outlaws (Nottinghamshire) in the North Group, the Foxes have been in considerably good form- managing to outgun the highly-regarded Lancashire team in the semis, thanks to a Super Over and Will Jefferson’s outstanding performance. They also possess the only Pakistani player in this entire league- and subject to VISA issues, we might or might not see Abdul Razzaq take the field against a SRK-owned Kolkata side very soon. Delicious, no?
President Nixon has left the building
With old captain and warhorse Matthew Hoggard desperate to put up a stellar English show for once in the Champions League, this will be former English keeper Paul Nixon’s fairytale finish- whether they qualify, win or not. At 40, he will probably be one of the oldest old-timers in the league, but he looks no older than the current English Keeper Matt Prior. Apart from that, the Foxes are a true bits-and-pieces T20 team, experienced to the core- but could be a bit undone by some extreme Indian weather conditions. Players like Buck, Cobb, Smith, Taylor and White sound much like names from a new Christopher Nolan feature film- and hopefully, they could perform an Inception of sorts in a country alien to their young minds. Luckily for them, they possess a chief secret weapon in the form of sole Australian all-rounder and T20 expert Andrew McDonald, who at 30, could be the next Michael Hussey of Australian cricket if Ponting ever decides to make way. The top-scorer of the 2011 season, McDonald carries the inexperienced batting line-up into a league that might see them do battle against current and former champions like the NSW Blues, Chennai and the Warriors.
The English teams are yet to prove their mettle on the world stage (I wish I could say the same about their national team, being an Indian and all), and hence they will be keen to follow in the gargantuan footsteps created by their current world-beating national team. Jigar Naik and Abdul Razzak, representing Asian blood in this current team, might just have other ideas though- considering the recent Asian performances across the globe.
My unholy prediction: The Foxes might just sneak through to the main stages (to be beaten soundly there), but Somerset (Somerset B, actually) might not be so lucky anymore.
Next, we move on to the moderately successful South African teams participating in the main competition: The Warriors and the Cobras. Intimidating names, with players from an unfortunate bloodline that dictates the ‘C’ word be practiced before the alphabets A and B in any major classroom across the country.