If the qualifying section is anything to go by this might be the best yet Champions League. It produced some good cricket and a few surprises, which all served to confirm a couple of adages about the game. Most importantly, whereas in the past a couple of sides have looked out of their depth in
the tournament, this time it would appear that any of the ten teams could win the trophy.
First, the adages. Pitches that give the bowlers a chance. The ones in Hyderabad and Bangalore had bounce and a little bit of life, which meant the bowlers were always encouraged and the batsmen had to be constantly alert. Pitches with some life also encourage the braver captains to seek wickets rather than concentrate purely on containment.
The boundaries at the Rajiv Gandhi stadium were fair; the sixes were legitimate and the mis-hits stayed inside the rope. When the game becomes a boundary-hitting bonanza it loses artistry, and fielding and running between wickets are reduced in importance.
Then there were the surprises. Somerset were a revelation. They played aggressively, their batsmen successfully attacked the spinners without constantly resorting to the sweep shot, and they have a good young leg-spinner in Max Waller.
You know the cricket world is in a state of flux when England is producing leg-spinners and Australia, the land of Shane Warne, Bill O'Reilly and Richie Benaud, can't unearth a wrist-spinner.
Fortunes also fluctuated during a couple of games where the result seemed to be heading in one direction only to dramatically switch tack like a good mystery novel. This isn't the normal pattern associated with T20 again was a reflection on the pitches.
Also the trend of using spinners in the powerplay overs to stifle scoring and take wickets has almost become the norm. This has come about in part due to the reluctance of batsmen to use their feet to spinners. It's now up to the batsmen to answer this challenge.
If the game is to keep moving ahead, these types of challenges have to be met immediately. The teams that adapt quickly to trends, and even set a few of their own, will leave the sides that are slow to react in their dust.
The teams who work hard on getting their structure right and putting in place good systems for developing players will have a distinct advantage over their competitors who are tardy in this aspect.
The teams who adopt a broader vision to player development will not only lead their opponents in skill but will also have greater depth of talent. With the amount of cricket being played now, the injuries mount up and the strength of the reserve players is critical.
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