CountriesSri Lanka & West Indies 

Many will say we have moved onto the minnow of the competition with this post. But I will beg to differ. Just because a few fortunate countries have only ONE team (the best, at that- as it should be) participating in the CL this year does not automatically qualify them as no-hopers, it just says that their domestic T20 competitions don’t really measure up to the scale of the massively vulgar IPL. That is not a bad thing at all. And secondly, their leagues aren’t televised for us to watch and judge- which is, again, not a bad thing.

So, for Sri Lanka in their Inter Provincial SL T20 Premier League, if it was Wayamba last year, it is the Jayasuriya-captained (yes, him) Ruhuna this year. And for West Indies, after a gap of one uneventful year- it is their most successful (relatively) T20 team Trinidad & Tobago.
Sadly for both of them, they will need to face the humiliation of qualifying first. For that, they will face KKR, Auckland and both the English teams. Tough task, indeed.

Ruhuna (Ruhuna Rhinos)

Winners- Sri Lanka

The Marauding Diplomat

After an earth-shattering climax to their T20 league this year, which IPL and other leagues could take a leaf from, Ruhuna emerged close winners in the one-over eliminator against defending champions Wayamba. After scoring a massive total of 198, which looked quite moderate in Lankan conditions, Ruhuna struggled to defend the total against the most balanced team in the tournament. Wayamba, though, almost fell at the last hurdle, scoring only 6 in the super over- and have therefore forfeited their place in this year’s Champions League. One has a feeling they will be back soon, but it is now Ruhuna’s time to shine. Basnahira, the team that topped the league stages, went home with the bittersweet satisfaction of possessing man of the tournament Dilshan and best bowler Dilruwan Perrera respectively.
The Ruhuna squad looks quite interesting- with the best batsman of the tournament, young Dinesh Chandimal (wicketkeeper and successor to Sangakkara), and final specialist Gunaratne leading a promising young team captained by a veteran twice their age.
Apart from three of the above mentioned, there are not many capped players in the side- which makes Ruhuna much more of an enigma than their more illustrious neighbours Wayamba (Jayawardena-led) last year. There was Randiv, of course, but he has chosen another country and another team for more than obvious reasons. The true underdogs of this CL 2011, Ruhuna will just have to demonstrate to the rest of the world, much like T&T did in 2009- the power of a team made of relatively unknown entities. It will be, of course, only a matter of time before youngsters like Rajapaksa, Lanka, Kamileen and Chandimal make the national side on a regular basis.

His Brother’s Keeper

Trinidad & Tobago
Winners- West Indies

After taking the Caribbean T20 trophy in storming fashion for the second time in the last three years, T&T- the team that set the stage alight in the first CL edition- is back with an exciting and raw line-up (which is what we expect, at the least) that may just include the next Kieron Pollard, or better. Overcoming a provincial team Hampshire that barely includes a capped player in their squad (which doesn’t say much) in the T20 final, T&T were always favourite once they had managed to reach the semis from their group stages unscathed. No Guyana to face either, and it was smooth sailing, under the captaincy of the West Indian equivalent of Wasim Jaffer- the inexhaustible Darren Ganga- the young brash likes of Barath, Simmons, Morton, Rampaul and Ramdin came into their own. Constituting roughly half of the current national team at any given point of time, the real T&T star that rose to the occasion was the player widely known as the next BC Lara all over the islands- Darren Bravo. A quickfire 42 in the final helped his team get to a competitive total, and their bowlers did the rest.
Holy Enough?
Simmons may have risen as a true T20 specialist in 2011 (man of the series), but T&T will have desperately needed the inseparable (rebel) duo of Pollard and Dwayne Bravo to have really pushed them into the higher echelons of this 2011 world competition. They’d have truly been an intimidating force to reckon with then, nevertheless, the current team look like no pushovers.
But always remember, they’re a West Indian team. And at times, that could be worse than being the Pakistan national team or Salman Khan. Unpredictability and a pool of resources that India would die to have- but an attitude more suited to a 100-meter dash.

My prediction: T&T stand more of a chance to come through the dreaded qualifying stages. The main competition will all depend on their first few performances, but their explosiveness will remain the key for more than one team in the CL 2011. Ruhuna, meanwhile, might not make it out of the qualifying stages.

We next move onto the relatively unknown Auckland in our next post, the only team from New Zealand this year. Of course, since they aren’t from India, South Africa or Australia, they will need to qualify. As usual.

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