Adam Gilchrist and Justin Langer were at the forefront, together, as they plotted the breach of the 'final frontier'-India in 2004. Five years on, having given up their baggy greens, the Australian openers meet in the country, on the opposite sides-- of the dugouts, to be more precise. And they will lead sides from India and England-- two of Australia's bitterest international rivals.
Welcome to club cricket. And its latest in line of innovation - the Champions League T20.
Gilchrist's Deccan Chargers take on England T20 runners-up Somerset CCC, led by Langer, in the opening Group A encounter of the tournament in Hyderabad on Saturday.
Chargers, being the Indian Premier League II champions and the home team, will start as slight favourites in the contest, but Gilchrist refused to burden his team with any extra pressure.
“We don't talk about pressure in our group,” said Gilchrist on the eve of the match. “There's always the expectation but that's more from us and not from people outside. We know the levels we can play to and we want to replicate that. There are bigger names in the teams around us and there are more favourite teams but we are just looking at getting ourselves prepared.
“We are obviously looking forward to that challenge. It's a new team that we haven't played so we are doing our homework and as we always do, we are a lot more focused on our own preparation and make sure that we are right.”
The home team boasts of an explosive batting line-up, comprising players like Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Rohit Sharma and Scott Styris. Though Somerset, who have done the hard yards in English competitions for the past two years to earn their place here, have known names in Langer and Marcus Trescothick, their destructive quotient is not as high. And Langer knows it well. He is already plotting a 'duck dismissal' for his former mate Gilchrist since he knows that if the left-hander gets going the Somerset fielders could be busy “chasing leather all day.” Or at least for most part of the evening. “It will be a good challenge to play Justin - he's a wonderful cricketer,” was Gilchrist’s modest reply.
Strike of Volt
Open nets can be a hazard. And they nearly proved lethal for anyone who ventured within 100 yards of the Otago Volts net session. Nathan McCullum, brother of New Zealand wicketkeeper Brendon, was in murderous mood as he sent balls flying all over the area with the least concern for any populace there. If the local bowlers were carted, to put it politely, even the likes of Dmitri Mascarenhas weren’t spared. It took the slow spin of younger brother Brendon to silence him for some time, before Nathan went bonkers again.
Whether he takes that form into the side’s opening match against Cape Cobras on Saturday evening remains to be seen. But Otago, the only Kiwi team in the tournament, would need their players to remain in top attacking form if they have to take the bite out of the Cobras, who clinched a last-over victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore in the tournament opener on Tuesday.
The South African team though would have to guard against fatigue, as they flew into the city only on Friday afternoon. Their lead bowler, Charl Langeveldt, who suffered an injury in Bangalore is also a suspect starter for the clash against Volts.