With the spectre of spot-fixing still chasing the Indian Premier League (IPL), a smooth conduct of the Champions League T20, a virtual extension of the IPL, without a question being raised about any on-field action will be atop the Indian Cricket Board’s (BCCI) wish list at the moment.
The fact that Faisalabad Wolves players got their visas at the last minute would be a huge sigh of relief for the richest cricket Board, which was fighting hard to restore the credibility for the game. The presence of all the best of sides from across the globe would hugely enhance the competitiveness of the fifth CLT20.
Despite being restricted to the PCA Stadium clubhouse rooms due to bureaucratic glitches related to their visas, the Wolves players attended a practice session to prepare for their first qualifying match against Otago Volts on Tuesday. Notwithstanding the existing border tensions between India and Pakistan, the team from across the border is expected to draw a good crowd here.
Three players — skipper Misbah-ul-Haq, Saeed Ajmal and Ehsan Adil — who were touring Zimbabwe were to join the Faisalabad team here on Monday night. With a good bowling line-up and some useful batsmen in Misbah and Asif Ali, the side has the ability to humble any opponent. Otago, the team from New Zealand, flaunts a robust batting line-up, led by the dangerous Brendon McCullum, Neil Broom and Dutch star Ryan ten Doeschate. Otago also possesses a good bowling attack with Nick Beard and Jacob Tuffy, the top-two wicket takers in the domestic HRV Cup, leading the pack and others like Ian Butler and off-spinner Nathan McCullum providing support.
Indian outfit Sunrisers Hyderabad, which had to move out of its home comforts due to administrative reasons, will take on Sri Lankan side Kandurata Maroons in the evening fixture.
Shikhar Dhawan, who is steadily making his mark for his twirled moustache as well as his equally majestic strokeplay, will be captaining Sunrisers. The team will also bank on batsmen like Cameron White, Parthiv Patel and J-P. Duminy and all-rounders like Darren Sammy and Thisara Perera.
Star South African speedster Dale Steyn, Ishant Sharma and spinner Amit Mishra will share the burden in the bowling department. Kumar Sangakkara will be in focus when he turns up for Maroons against his own IPL team. After the spat with Sri Lankan cricket authorities, he will be out to prove a point.
With several Lankan stars in its ranks, Maroons also look formidable. Names such as Upul Tharanga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Dilhara Lokuhettige, Kushal Lokuarachchi, Suraj Randiv, Ajantha Mendis and Chamara Silva ring a bell and the opposition will have to carefully draw its plan against such experienced campaigners.
The best two sides from the qualifiers will make it to the group stage starting from September 21.
The fixtures: Sept. 17: Faisalabad Wolves v Otago Volts (4 p.m.), Kandurata Maroons v Sunrisers Hyderabad (8 p.m.).
Sept. 18: Kandurata Maroons v Otago Volts (4 p.m.), Faisalabad Wolves v Sunrisers Hyderabad (8 p.m.)
Sept. 20: Faisalabad Wolves v Kandurata Maroons (4 p.m.), Otago Volts v Sunrisers Hyderabad (8 p.m.).
Keywords: Champions League T20