Another T20 extravaganza in the name of Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) is about to begin. Although contrary to the organisers' belief it didn't turn out to be a very popular event, it has still managed to lure the best teams from different T20 competitions with its hefty prize money.
Just like the previous four editions, this season will also comprise teams from Australia (Brisbane Heat, Perth Scorchers), South Africa (Highveld Lions, Nashua Titans), West Indies (Trinidad & Tobago), New Zealand (Otago Volts) and hosts India (Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad).
While the Australian, South African, the Caribbean and three sides from India got direct entry to the group stage of the tournament, Otago and Hyderabad had to go through a qualification round before entering the main competition. The ten teams have been divided into two groups with five teams each. While Group A consists of Lions, Mumbai, Otago, Rajasthan and Perth, Group B consists of Brisbane, Chennai, Hyderabad, T&T and Titans.
As all the teams participating here are either the champions of their respective Twenty20 competitions or finished in the first four (in case of the IPL teams), we look at the strengths of each side and what possibility they will have in the cash-rich event.
Highveld Lions: After winning South Africa's domestic T20 tournament - Ram Slam T20 challenge - this season, Highveld Lions will come into this tournament brimming with confidence. Having reached the final of the CLT20 in 2012 as well, Lions would like to go a step further this time around. Led by experienced Alviro Petersen, Lions have what they need to make an impact. They expect the attacking batsman Guam Bodi to provide them good starts, while the seasoned campaigner Neil McKenzie can guide the side in the middle over. Their spin department also looks pretty descent with the presence of leggie Iran Tapir and slow left-armour Aaron Pangs. Pakistan international So hail Tangier will spearhead their pace bowling attack.
Mumbai Indians: Mumbai is one of the most formidable units entering the competition. Having won the CLT20 2011 and being the reigning IPL champions, Mumbai would like to add a third major trophy to their cabinet. Like Chennai, they have all their bases covered. While Sachin Tendulkar provides them enormous experience, Dwayne Smith and Kieron Pollard add the destructive instinct. Rohit Sharma was impressive as captain in IPL6, while Dinesh Karthik and Ambati Rayudu provided the winning edge in crunch situations. Mitchell Johnson did well in IPL6, while the spin duo of Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha do bulk of the bowling in the middle over. The Mumbai team management would like to use the destructive batsman Glenn Maxwell more. They would also like to give Tendulkar, who is playing his last tournament in coloured clothes, a befitting farewell by winning the competition.
Otago Volts: Led by the mercurial Brandon McCollum, Otago Volts have looked extremely impressive in the Qualifiers where they won all three matches to enter the main tournament. While their batsmen looked in good nick, their bowlers too have been on the money. Medium pacer Ian Butler has already picked up five wickets in the tournament, while the senior McCollum has already hit a blazing half-century (83* off 65 balls). The Dutch international Ryan ten Does hate proved to be a positive addition to the team as he not only picked up two wickets in the second Qualifier but also made a match-winning 64 off 32 balls. Otago are the champions of New Zealand's domestic T20 competition - HRV Cup 2012-13 - and have participated in CLT20 before in 2009.
Rajasthan Royals Over the years, Rajasthan have shown how to thrive even without star players. Their winning the inaugural edition of the IPL was a prime example of that when a bunch of Indian youngsters, along with a few foreign players, surprised the dominant Chennai Super Kings under the leadership of Shane Warne. Rahul Dravid continued with the legacy Warne left behind as the team finished third in IPL6. The opening combination of Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane blossomed, while young Sanju Samson also impressed in his maiden IPL season. But the all-round ability of Shane Watson provides them the real strength. Although the team will be without Siddhartha Trivedi, S Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila (all have been banned for their involvement in spot-fixing), they know how to manage with minimum resources. Shaun Taut might be used as a surprise weapon, while Kevon Cooper and Stuart Binny will be handy both with bat and ball.
Perth Scorchers: Scorchers will come into CLT20 after an impressive showing in the Big Bash League, having finished runners-up second year in a row. Scorchers would like to utilise the experience and knowledge of Simon Kasich, Brad Hogg, Shaun Marsh, Marcus North and Adam Vogues. The presence of young all-rounder Mitchell Marsh also provides stability to their side. Alfonso Thomas - the T20 specialist bowler - will lead the team's pace attack.
Brisbane Heat: Having a bunch of young players, Brisbane surprised many when they won the second season of the Big Bash League, beating an experienced Perth Scorchers side. Good performance in the Big Bash was the result of utilising their young guns to full effect and they would like to continue the same in their debut CLT20 season. Brisbane are led by all-rounder James Hopes, with another all-rounder Daniel Christian giving the side further strength. While experienced Nathan Hurwitz will lead the spin attack, Kumar Roach will add more fire to their pace department.
Chennai Super Kings Winner of the 2010 edition, Chennai will be one of the favourites to win the competition. Led by MS Dhoti, Chennai have players best suited for their respective jobs. While experienced Mike Hussey and Mural Vijay provide the side rousing starts on most occasions, Fad due Plissés has too proved his worth when asked to bat in the top order. Suresh Riana, S Baronet and Dhoti form the core of the middle order, while all-rounder in the form of Raindrop Judea, Dwayne Bravo and Albia Morel can take apart even the best of bowling attacks on their day. Ravichandran Ashwin is team's lead spinner, while both Mohit Sharma and Chris Morris were very impressive in IPL6.
Sunrisers Hyderabad Hyderabad were very impressive in IPL6, finishing fourth in the points table and they continued that form in the qualifiers, winning two of their three matches. The move to hand over the reins to Shikhar Dhawan in the absence of regular skipper Kumar Sangakkara proved a blessing in disguise as more responsibility brought the best in Dhawan and it also gave the side an additional option to pick a foreign player. Parthiv Patel has flourished in the company of Dhawan, while the addition of JP Duminy has proved very beneficial for the side. Darren Sammy and Thisara Perera provide stability to the side with their all-round play, while the pace of Dale Steyn - both upfront and at the end - provides the side an edge. The legspin duo of Amit Mishra and Karan Sharma are both frugal and wicket-takers.
Trinidad & Tobago: Boasting an impeccable record in their domestic T20 competition, having won the competition four out of last five years, T&T will once again enter CLT20 to play the same brand of entertaining and fearless cricket that had made them popular in the inaugural season of this competition when they finished runners-up to New South Wales Blues. The Caribbean outfit will be led by wicketkeeper-batsman Denesh Ramdin, while it also comprises the mystery spinner Sunil Narine and canny medium-pacer Ravi Rampaul. Darren Bravo and Lendl Simmons will form the core of their batting.
Nashua Titans: Having a list of known T20 performers, Titans will be one of the teams to look out for at the CLT20. Henry Davids is known to provide the side explosive starts, while Farhaan Behardien has also done well for them. But most importantly, the presence of explosive AB de Villiers, along with Jacques Rudolph, provides strength to their batting. Speedsters Morne Morkel and Marchant de Lange will test some of the best batsmen in the business. Roelof van der Merwe gives the side the stability with his power-hitting and slow-left arm spin.