Who Will Win The 2013 Champions League T20?
Will the Chennai Super Kings or Mumbai Indians claim their second T20 Champions League title? Today on the blog Nick Miller takes a look at the contenders for 2013.
The Twenty20 Champions League tournament gets underway in India next week. Nick Miller looks at the teams in contention for the big prize.
2013 Champions League Twenty20 Odds
|Trinidad & Tobago||19.00||13.00||17.00||17.00||15.00|
Odds as at 16th September 2013.
Chennai Super Kings
On paper, Chennai have the strongest squad in the competition. Led by MS Dhoni, they also boast Ravi Ashwin, Dwayne Bravo, Ravi Jadeja, Mike Hussey (the 2013 IPL top scorer), Suresh Raina and Albie Morkel. Indeed, this theoretical superiority has manifested itself in the middle, with Chennai reaching the final of the IPL five times, winning it twice, and lifting the Champions League in 2010.
Indeed, they seem to have been given a favourable draw, avoiding the other two IPL teams in the round-robin group stage, instead facing the runners-up in South Africa (the Titans) and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as Brisbane. It's difficult to see past the behemoths of the Twenty20 game here.
All eyes on Sachin Tendulkar, whose participation in the tournament was in doubt after he underwent surgery on his left hand in August. Tendulkar has started batting in the nets, but in what will be his valedictory appearance for the Indians, the 40-year-old legend might not be at the height of his powers.
Beyond Tendulkar, the Indians will rely on the big-hitting of Kieron Pollard and Glenn Maxwell, two players upon whom you might not rely, but two players that could win games on their own. The same applies to bowlers Mitchell Johnson and Harbhajan Singh, all of which giving the impression of a team that are potentially entertaining, but aren't a particularly safe bet for success.
A team perhaps personified by their captain, the magnificent Rahul Dravid, the Rajasthan Royals rely on steady rather than enormously explosive players. Even Shane Watson, their top scorer in the last edition of the IPL, is not normally regarded as a huge hitter, but his Twenty20 strike-rate is up at 145 and he'll probably be the Royals' key player. Ajinkya Rahane is perhaps an underrated talent, again chipping in with solid totals without smashing too many sixes out of the ground.
Their bowling attack will be led by Australian all-rounder James Faulkner, but their relative paucity of spinning options could count against them.
If this was a prediction based on which team was most fun to watch, Sunrisers Hyderabad would probably win thanks to one man. Shikhir Dhawan was a lateish bloomer, a relative journeyman with a few ODIs to his name before exploding in 2013. His performances in the Champions Trophy were only eclipsed by his facial hair, and he followed that by damn-near scoring a triple century in India A's recent ODI against South Africa A, finishing on a 'mere' 248 from 150 balls. His Twenty20 record thus far is decent (average 31.67, strike rate 119), but this could be the tournament when the moustachioed maverick emerges as a force in the shortest form of the game.
Oh, and they also have Dale Steyn, JP Duminy and Darren Sammy. Not bad.
Despite finishing behind the Lions in the domestic competition, the other side from South Africa look to have a stronger squad for this competition. The Titans are led by Jacques Rudolph, but their star man is AB De Villiers, one of the most naturally-gifted and potentially explosive batsmen in world cricket. If De Villiers gets going (though his Twenty20 record is actually pretty inconsistent) he could win games on his own.
Aside from De Villiers, the Titans don't have many individual star performers (only one player, Henry Davids, made it into the Ram Slam T20 top ten run-scorers) and instead seem to focus on a team effort, which could prove advantageous as the tournament progresses.
For assorted reasons, Brisbane are shorn of a few players who led them to success in the Big Bash, with the likes of Luke Pomersbach and Ryan Harris absent, so they will have to rely on a relatively youthful side in India. Indeed, they will likely be looking towards their few experienced campaigners – Nathan Hauritz, Dan Christian and wicketkeeper Chris Hartley – for success.
Perhaps their key absentee will be Darren Lehmann, the man who led them to domestic victories, after he was dragooned to help the national side in England. It would be quite the surprise if they prevailed here, but then again it was in the Big Bash too.
One of South Africa's representatives in the tournament, the Lions certainly have experience on their side, with only two players in their squad under 24, and Proteas old boys Alviro Petersen, Neil McKenzie and Imran Tahir in their ranks.
However, to balance out the experience, they have 20-year-old Quinton de Kock, the talented keeper-batsman who was the top run-scorer in the splendidly-named Ram Slam T20 Challenge last year. Lonwabo Tsotsobe could be the Lions' key man, providing both economy and a strong wicket threat with his left-arm quick bowling.
The Australian Big Bash runners-up suffered something of a setback before the tournament when loose-cannon all-rounder Mitchell Marsh was ruled out with a hamstring injury. "I knew straight away [that it is serious], it was that sort of coach's nightmare when you see it,” coach Justin Langer said. The Scorchers count near-Ashes hero Ashton Agar in their ranks, although he has yet to play in a top-level Twenty20 game.
Indeed, their trump cards probably lie in their experienced campaigners, with death-bowler extraordinaire Alfonso Thomas, Aussie stalwarts Simon Katich, Adam Voges and the 42-year-old Brad Hogg, who had something of a renaissance in the last Big Bash.
Trinidad and Tobago
Of the teams automatically through to the main group stage, Trinidad & Tobago look the weakest on paper. However, they could be a surprise Champions League package after winning the Caribbean Twenty20 back in January.
Their squad boasts the core of the West Indies side that surprisingly won the World Twenty20 in 2012, notably Sunil Narine and Ravi Rampaul. However, while their bowling attack looks strong, their batting is a little thin, which could cost them.
Four other teams will duke it out in a short pre-qualifying stage, scrapping for the remaining two spots in the groups. Of those, Faisalabad Wolves are only the second Pakistani team to make the Champions League, but despite being captained by Misbah-ul-Haq and having Saeed Ajmal, they are probably the weakest team in the competition. Otago should fare slightly better, with McCullums Brendon and Nathan in their ranks, along with probably New Zealand's most exciting young talent in Hamish Rutherford, while Sunrisers Hyderabad's strong showing in the IPL should stand them in good stead. Kandurata Maroons have the majority of the Sri Lankan side, including Kumar Sangakara and Ajantha Mendis, so they cannot be discounted.
Follow Nick on Twitter: @NickMiller79
And read more of his work at The73Overs.Wordpress.com