Even before the last qualifying matches of the Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) 2013 have taken place, everyone knows which 10 teams will participate in the tournament proper. Shrikant Shankar writes about what to expect from the premier T20 competition of the world.
The Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) has never quite captivated the imagination of the public like the Indian Premier League (IPL) has. For many IPL teams, winning the cash-rich Indian T20 competition is a far greater achievement than winning the CLT20. What one cannot forget is that, except for the IPL teams, one can qualify and participate in the CLT20 only by winning their domestic T20 competition. For some, finishing in the top two or three positions is enough to qualify. So, technically the CLT20 is the bigger competition. The fans get to see the best T20 teams from all around the world in one single competition.
All the 10 teams are known, as the qualifying turned out to be a drab affair in terms of an excitement factor going into the last day. Sunrisers Hyderabad and Otago Volts join Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Rajasthan Royals, Highveld Lions, Perth Scorchers, Brisbane Heat, Titans and ,last but not least, Trinidad and Tobago in the group stages. So, what can we expect from the T20 extravaganza? Let’s take a look:
IPL team will win the tournament
This is the fifth edition of the CLT20. Twice, IPL teams have won the tournament in the previous four editions. The Chennai Super Kings (CSK) won it in 2010 and the Mumbai Indians won it in 2011. The other two times an Australian team has won the competition. All top four teams from the IPL 2013 are participating this time around and on paper they are stronger than the rest. T20 is probably the only format in which the unexpected happens a bit more often. But with the competition in India, expect an IPL team to lift the trophy come the final on October 6.
MS Dhoni’s leadership qualities to be praised again
Every single time MS Dhoni walks out into the middle, there is fanfare and a natural pull towards him. He has this aura which has been enhanced by his record with the CSK. In six editions of the IPL, CSK have reached the final on five occasions. They won the second edition of the CLT20 in 2010. There was a time not so long ago that Dhoni’s captaincy was questioned, especially with India. But after a 4-0 drubbing handed to the Aussies in a Test series earlier this year and a successful ICC Champions Trophy 2013 have just increased his stock as a captain. CSK might win the CLT20 2013 and all the praise would flow in Dhoni’s favour. Even if they don’t, expect Dhoni’s leadership qualities to remain intact and unquestioned.
Underdogs to spice up the competition
Every competition in the world has an underdog or underdogs. Everyone likes an underdog (and if they don’t, then they have to watch the Rocky movies. Maybe they can give a skip to the fifth movie from the overall six). It is a known fact that it is the underdogs who shape any competition in any sport in the world. They seldom win the overall prize, but they create excitement by beating some high profile teams and going on a run. Everyone liked Ireland in the 2011 ICC World Cup. Last year, the Sydney Sixers surprised everyone by winning the competition. A Brett Lee-inspired New South Wales beat Trinidad and Tobago in the inaugural edition in 2009. Expect teams like the Otago Volts and Trinidad and Tobago to cause upsets and spice up the competition.
The semi-finals will not consist all four IPL teams
Yes, an IPL team will mostly win the tournament, but do not expect all four IPL teams to be in the semi-finals. Such things hardly ever happen in any sport. There is, however, a possibility of an all-IPL final. Maybe even three IPL teams will be there come the semi-finals stage, but it is highly unlikely. The underdogs and strong teams from Australia and South Africa will definitely be too good for some IPL teams on a given day. For non IPL teams, the CLT20 represents an opportunity to shine on the world stage and get noticed. They might want it more than a few IPL teams.
Sachin Tendulkar to be thoroughly missed
Everyone knows that this will be the last time Sachin Tendulkar will play for the Mumbai Indians and the last time he plays a competitive T20 event. He announced his retirement from the IPL after Mumbai’s victory earlier this year. Expect a lot of sentiment to be involved when Tendulkar takes the field in every single match. Mumbai may or may not win the tournament, but Tendulkar will grab all the headlines when he plays his last match. Opinion pieces, news reports and articles will all be kept ready much before his last match. Even if he never excelled in the T20 format like a Chris Gayle or a Kieron Pollard, expect every single cricket fan to miss him thoroughly.
Rahul Dravid also to be thoroughly missed
One cannot forget Rahul Dravid is Tendulkar is mentioned. He led an unfancied Rajasthan side to finish third in the IPL 2013. He also did that with all the controversies that surrounded his team directly. Like Tendulkar, Dravid never truly excelled in the T20 format on an individual level. Remember, this is the last time anyone will see Dravid in competitive action on a cricket field. Tendulkar will still play the Test series against West Indies. Dravid will bid adieu after this tournament. He will also be thoroughly missed.
(Shrikant Shankarpreviously worked with Mobile ESPN, where he did audio commentary for many matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20. He has also written many articles involving other sports for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)