Kolkata Knight Riders takes on Auckland Aces

The performance of the Indian team during the recent tour of England and the debate about “too much cricket” will take a back seat, for the average fan on the street at least, when the Champions League T20 qualifiers begin at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here from Monday.

Every day two matches will be held for the next three days.

The spirit of the die-hard cricket fans can well be exemplified by their presence in good numbers (despite the actual sale of tickets for the CL T20 matches being very poor so far) to watch the practice matches recently at the Gymkhana ground featuring teams which are in the fray. What matters to the fans is action in the middle, irrespective of whether their favourite stars are there or not.

So, when the six teams — 2009 runner-up Trinidad & Tobago, Leicestershire, Kolkata Knight Riders, Auckland Aces, Ruhunu (Sri Lanka) and Somerset — battle it out to qualify for the main draw, the excitement level will be high especially with the likes of Jacques Kallis, Brett Lee, Yusuf Pathan for KKR and Sanath Jayasuriya for Ruhunu, all in the thick of the battle.

Curator Y.L. Chandrasekhar has stated that the pitch will be “truly sporting'. “Tomorrow, the first two matches will be played on strips made of red soil and so some decent bounce is expected. The other strip is made of black soil and the emphasis in the preparation has been to prepare tracks which suit this format of the game,” said the curator.

The teams have been split into two groups and the topper from each group and the third best in the overall standings in the qualifying rounds will make it to the main draw.

No recovery time

Effectively, it also means that for any team, there is very little time to recover. And as Leicestershire captain Matthew Hoggard pointed out the other day, a lot depends on the team's ability to react quickly in a given situation. “It is a mad rush game,” said Auckland Aces captain Gareth Hopkins.

But, the first target of every team in the qualifiers is to win two games to make it to the next stage. That should make the whole contest absorbing and provide the fans all the thrills normally associated with this format of the game.

By all means, the West Indian outfit, Trinidad & Tobago, led by Darren Ganga, may not look imposing on paper but it is indisputably the crowd favourite for the way it plays the game. The same can be said of Kolkata Knight Riders albeit for different reasons. “True, there is a distinct identity to the cricket we play, as it has always been over the years,” says Ganga.

The groupings: Group A: Ruhunu (Sri Lanka), Trinidad & Tobago, Leicestershire. Group B: Auckland Aces, Kolkata Knight Riders and Somerset.

Monday's matches: Trinidad & Tobago vs, Ruhunu XI, 4 p.m.; Kolkata Knight Riders vs. Auckland Aces 7.30 p.m.

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