With a good mix of experts and exciting home-grown talents, the Indian teams, playing in the ongoing Champions League Twenty20 in South Africa, were expected to start their campaigns with a bang. But after their opening matches, it will be fair to say that they have proved second best to their rivals from other countries.
Former champions Chennai Super Kings began their campaign with a 14-run loss to Australia's Sydney Sixers, while the reigning champions, Mumbai Indians, were outmaneuvered by South Africa's Highveld Lions in their first match. And although we can say that Delhi Daredevils were clinical in thumping IPL champions, Kolkata Knight Riders, on Saturday, their competence will be better judged when they face teams from other countries.
In the CSK-Sixers game, the margin of loss may appear to be low as compared to Lions’ eight-wicket thrashing of Mumbai or KKR's 52 against Daredevils, the manner in which the Aussie side stamped its superiority could have given plenty of headaches to Dhoni and Co. before their next game.
Sixers were in a spot, losing four for 110 runs after 14 overs, but Steven Smith and Moises Henriques took the Chennai bowlers to the cleaners. Interestingly, it was the Aussie bowling duo of Doug Bollinger and Ben Hilfenhaus who were treated with utter disdain, eking out 35 runs in the last two overs, by Smith and Henriques in their 75-run stand. While chasing a stiff total of 186, none of the CSK batsmen, barring Faf du Plessis and Suresh Raina, had answers to the Sixers' bowlers. CSK, the two-time IPL champions, were outplayed by Aussie Big Bash champions.
Mumbai, on the other hand, were out-thought by Lions. Mumbai might still be ruing their decision to send Mitchell Johnson early as a pinch-hitter. Johnson, as it was believed, was sent in place of regular batsmen Kieron Pollard, Dinesh Karthik and Ambati Rayudu with an intention to give the scoring a push. He could have also sent in to attack the left-arm spin of Aaron Phangiso, who ended up with 1 for 17 in his four overs, including the prized wicket of Sachin Tendulkar. Lions’ chase of Mumbai's challenging total of 157 was clinical. Niel McKenzie and young Quinton de Kock stitched an unbroken 121 runs partnership to take the Lions home. So Mumbai were outmaneuvered.
KKR's batsmen were at sea, facing the swing of Irfan Pathan and tackling the bounce of Morne Morkel. Five of their batsmen, including Jacques Kallis - who had gone for an x-ray after a Morkel rising delivery rapped on his fingers. First KKR allowed Daredevils to post a formidable total, leaking too many runs in death overs, and then were 3 for 3 after just seven deliveries of their chase. While their top-order crumbled, the middle-order could only do a face-saving exercise.
Though it's just the beginning of the tournament, the losses could serve as a reality check for the IPL teams as the conditions in South Africa are against their liking and they will have to play out their skin if they have dreams of going the distance.