“We have a very good team and hopefully we will not disappoint the home fans,” says Mohanlal.

Mumbai Heroes, who on Saturday face Amma Kerala Strikers at Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in the opening match of the third edition of the Celebrity Cricket League (CCL), have no fond memories of the city. The last time the heavyweights clashed at the venue, the Mumbai side suffered a 10-wicket thrashing at the hands of Mohanlal and his boys.

Despite the win, the Kerala side could not book a semi-final spot due to a lower net run rate.

The intensity to prove a point this time around is palpable as the team goes through its paces during training sessions. Coach Chandrasenan has said his boys are ready to improve their performance from their maiden appearance last year.

Mr. Chandrasenan said the team over the last 10 days had put in real hard work. “The team has a settled look, but I won’t yet reveal the playing eleven,” he said.

The coach is particularly happy about the fitness of captain Mohanlal and the way his right arm medium pace is shaping up.

The captain turned up for a special net session on Wednesday despite it being declared a rest day for the team. The actor-par-excellence bowled, batted, and fielded with verve and vitality in his inimitable way.

“We have a very good team and hopefully we will not disappoint the home fans. It provides an opportunity for actors from different regions to get to know each other,” said Mohanlal.

In their run up to the CCL, the team played seven practice matches against A division league clubs in the district. Though the Strikers managed to pull off two wins, it lost five “close encounters.”

The full squad turned up for two-hour long practice sessions under flood lights at the stadium on Thursday. They will wrap up the final practice session on the eve of the match on Friday. “This year the team is very balanced. Last year the team was cobbled up at the last minute. Bowling and fielding, the team’s major shortcomings in the second edition, have been taken care of,” said Mr. Chandrasenan.

Bineesh Kodiyeri and Rajeev Pillai continue to be the main stay of the Kerala Strikers team. Prajod Kalabhavan is likely to join forces with Rajeev to form a deadly duo. Saiju Kurup’s presence will add teeth to the bowling department, while young actors like Arjun, Madan Mohan, Vivek Gopan, Ragendu, and Santhosh Sleeba will bolster the team with their all round skills. Rajeev Pillai, who played some delectable textbook shots during his unbeaten knock of 75 against Mumbai, said the team had five to six match winners who could single-handedly take the team home. Though the team looks formidable in its new avatar, its biggest asset will be the home fans who are capable of intimidating any opposition. They simply packed the stadium to the rafters last year and there is no reason why it would be any different this time. So, hey, Heroes bring it on!

Security arrangements

Expecting a capacity crowd to turn up for the inaugural Celebrity Cricket League (CCL) match on Saturday, the city police are leaving no stone unturned to ensure the safe conduct of the two matches of the third edition of CCL to be held at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium here.

K. Padmakumar, the Inspector General of Police, Ernakulam Range, said the police would deploy a 1,000-strong force to ensure security.

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