The Champions League T20 2012 now approaches its business end with four teams in the fray for the coveted prize. Delhi Daredevils are the only Indian Premier League (IPL) team that have managed to qualify for the semi-finals as Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Mumbai Indians (MI) fizzled out without much of a fight. At the outset, it is clear that there is an over-participation from the IPL and the CLT20 lacks a level playing field. The performances of KKR, CSK and MI left a lot to be desired as they failed to live up to the pre-tournament expectations.
Some may pin the blame on the IPL teams’ failure to adjust to the conditions, but that doesn’t seem to be the main issue. Most of them bank on their foreign players to do the trick and it has been a collective failure of the sides. There may have been extra bounce or movement – something the Indian players may not be accustomed to. However, one mustn’t forget that some of these sides played a few warm-up matches in the lead-up and T20 cricket doesn’t require the same level of adjustment when compared to the longer formats.
Let us start with the IPL champions – the KKR – a team that should have lived up to its billing. KKR lost their first two games quite comprehensively and it was always going to be an uphill task from thereon. The washed-out game against Perth sealed their fate and the IPL champions were on their way home. Their batsmen simply didn’t click in the first two games and didn’t back the bowlers’ efforts. In the first game against Delhi, with the exception of Lakshmipathy Balaji, the bowlers had done well. The batting collapsed under pressure during the run-chase and stood no chance in front of the quality seam attack.
Gautam Gambhir was Kolkata’s biggest trump card during the IPL and his failures would have had a huge bearing on their chances. He is someone who can change gears well and rally the innings around him. With him struggling, the others had to take more responsibility. In the last game, Gambhir played well and one could see the effect it had on the batting. The batsmen from the other end fearlessly attacked the bowling as he calmly held one. Interestingly, Balaji too did well in that game and Kolkata fans can only look back and wonder what might have been.
The IPL’s most consistent side, the Chennai Super Kings, faltered at crucial intervals in their first two games and that was enough to send them packing. It was an uncharacteristic performance as here is a side one expects would capitalise on big moments in a game. Normally, they dominate once they get a sniff and don’t let the opposition claw back. However, they lost to the Lions even after they had the opposition in a muddle. Although they beat Mumbai, it was clear that they weren’t defending totals well. Mumbai were in huge trouble and Chennai allowed them back in the game. Ravichandran Ashwin’s failure hit them hard. Once your trump card fails, it is always difficult to recover.
Defending champions Mumbai Indians got through to the main round by virtue of their 2011 triumph and failed to justify their place. Despite having a stronger squad compared to the last edition, Mumbai were consistently inconsistent. Their habit of getting into tough situations cost them and there were no Houdini Acts this time around.
Indian interest in the remaining part of the tournament would now be on Delhi, who have had to endure two wash-outs, but recorded two wins to see themselves through. It is a quality side and the right balance has helped them win games. However, they have to battle historical questions as they march towards the semi-final. As Karthik Parimal, my fellow writer at CricketCountry pointed out in his article, “Only the Delhi Daredevils (DD) have qualified for the semi-finals, but if you’re one of the supporters hoping they will go the distance, then there is something to be concerned about. Not only have the Daredevils never won a semi-final, they’ve been battered heavily every single time.”
Mahela Jayawardene would hope and pray the tide turns in South Africa.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_