Challengers ready for the war
The battle to determine the best Twenty20 side begins on Friday when the Royal Challengers Bangalore take on the Warriors, of South Africa, in the Champions League T20 opener. Nikhilesh Bhattacharya reports. Local starscricket Updated: Sep 23, 2011 02:56 IST
The battle to determine the best Twenty20 side begins on Friday when the Royal Challengers Bangalore take on the Warriors, of South Africa, in the Champions League T20 opener.
With the Kolkata Knight Riders sneaking into the main draw as the best second-placed team from the qualifiers, cricket fans from at least four Indian cities can follow the tournament closely.
The strongest countries in international cricket are represented here. Apart from the four Indian Premier League (IPL) sides, there are two each from Australia and South Africa, and one each from England and the West Indies.Defending champions Chennai Super Kings have shown how it is done, but fans in Kolkata, Mumbai and Bangalore will know it is tough to replicate IPL successes in the CLT20. The last time the tournament was held in India, no IPL side made it even to the semi-finals.
But the tournament also offers the national selectors an opportunity to watch players as India try to rebuild following the humiliation in England, starting with the limited-overs return series from October 14.
With not much domestic cricket to be played before the England series, players returning from injury and the fringe players will be under scrutiny.
Thus the selectors may have to fall back on the CLT20 to see, for example, how well Harbhajan Singh and Gautam Gambhir have recovered from the injuries that cut short their England tour.
If MS Dhoni's is given a break from the limited-over matches against England, Gambhir is expected to step in as captain, as he did against New Zealand last year. Harbhajan, apart from being India's premier spinner, also sometimes assumes the vice-captain's role. So the selectors will be keen to not only see if Gambhir and Harbhajan last the tournament and how they perform, but also how well they lead the Knight Riders and the Mumbai Indians respectively.
The CLT20 also gives players on the fringes of the national squad a chance to get noticed. The under-utilised (read Manoj Tiwary), the ignored (Yusuf Pathan, Saurabh Tiwary) and those who have been dropped (S Badrinath, M Vijay) will all be keen to make a mark. So sit back and enjoy the show. Just keep your fingers crossed that there are no more injuries.