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ARC LIGHTS ON BIG LEAGUE

GROUP A

Kolkata Knight Riders

After four seasons of despair, this year the Knights finally won the big battle — they won the IPL. That should help them in believing that they can be the ‘champion of champions’ as well. Under the able leadership of Gautam Gambhir, they are capable of braving the odds in alien conditions and emerging as the best. Their best bet? Jacques Kallis, of course. Be it with the bat or the ball, having Kallis in the side is often half the battle won. Brett Lee and Lakshmipathy Balaji, along with Kallis, will have to give their best to make use of the conditions. Sunil Narine was hugely successful in IPL-V, but the same cannot be guaranteed on the bouncy South African pitches. And don’t forget Brendon McCullum! The Knights’ power lies in their all-rounders — Shakib-al Hasan, Ryan ten Doeschate, Manoj Tiwary, Kallis. Most of their players’ experience of playing on the hard and bouncy wickets in South Africa will also work to their advantage. Gambhir may not have been among runs in the recently-concluded World T20 in Sri Lanka, but he may choose this tournament to return to form. And if Gambhir gets going , there’ll be no stopping the Knights.

Key players: Gautam Gambhir, Brendon McCullum, Jacques Kallis

Titans

The team suffered a huge blow when AB de Villiers was ruled out of the tournament because of back and ankle injuries. Though De Villiers has been retained in the squad, it’s unlikely that he will take part in the tournament. The news proves to be more crucial for the team after Marchant de Lange and Albie Morkel also had to be replaced because of injuries. It will be interesting to see whether the team have the wherewithal to progress without their presence. To their advantage, they will be playing at home. They would also like to take confidence from the fact that they are the champions in the domestic T20 and four-day match competitions. In batting, Farhaan Behardien and Martin van Jaarsveld provide them the stability. Roelof van der Merwe and Alfonso Thomas will shoulder the bowling .

Key Players: Martin van Jaarsveld, Farhaan Behardien, Alfonso Thomas

Perth Scorchers

In the inaugural Big Bash League, Perth Scorchers were one of the most consistent teams. They had an unbeaten run of five matches till they lost in the final. And they will be keen to make amends in the CLT20.

They have one of the strongest batting line-ups in the tournament. In Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh and Herschelle Gibbs, they have the power-hitters, while Paul Collingwood and Simon Katich provide the middle-order stability. There is a lot of variety in their bowling too.

Key Players: Herschelle Gibbs, Paul Collingwood, Shaun Marsh

Delhi DareDevils

The DareDevils have always been filled to the brim with potential. It’s the execution where they fail. In Mahela Jayawardene, Morne Morkel, Irfan Pathan, Kevin Pietersen, Ross Taylor, Andre Russell and David Warner, the squad has so many explosive names that the DareDevils can easily be called the Dynamites. One is not sure of Virender Sehwag’s form . But if he gets back among the runs, it’ll be a headache for the other teams. Morkel will have to guide Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron on how to exploit the South African pitches. However, lack of a genuine spinner in the side might rob the bowling attack of some much-required variety. Unmukt Chand will draw much attention provided he gets a chance in the playing XI. So, the youngster should be ready for the big stage.

Key players: Mahela Jayawardene, Morne Morkel, Kevin Pietersen

Auckland Aces

With two HRV T20 Cups, they are the most successful New Zealand domestic side.

This will be the Auckland Aces’ second CLT20 tournament. While they made an early exit from the tournament last season — they lost both their qualifying matches — they impressed with their much better showing this time around. Led by captain Gareth Hopkins, Auckland have the right blend of young and experienced players. Azhar Mahmood will be critical to Auckland’s performance. He can play a decisive role with his all-round performance as was evident during the qualifiers. Auckland will certainly hope that he fires. With the likes of Martin Guptill, Lou Vincent and Andre Adams, Auckland have a strong batting line-up. They have plenty of bowling options as well. Kyle Mills and Chris Martin could trouble the batsmen with their swing and pace.

Key players: Azhar Mahmood, Martin Guptill, Kyle Mills

GROUP B

Chennai Super Kings

The champions of the 2010 edition in South Africa, they have always produced a stellar show when it comes to this tournament. They boast of an amazing track-record, winning six out of the 10 matches they have played. CSK’s X-factor lies in their captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Australians Doug Bollinger and Ben Hilfenhaus’ fiery pace will be an added advantage on the South African pitches, and assisting their attack will be local boy Albie Morkel. In batting, CSK have a line-up to be proud of. Though Dwayne Bravo will be missed, yet the likes of Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Mike Hussey can rip apart any bowling. Also, after local boy Faf du Plessis’ showing against India in the World T20, we wait for some magic.

Key Players: Albie Morkel, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Doug Bollinger

Highveld Lions

You will hardly find a star or a pivot around which the entire team revolve. But when it comes to performing on the field, the players play as a unit and are always up for the challenge. The USP of the Lions is most of them are utility players. The squad comprise some exciting young talents like Jean Symes and Quinton de Kock as well as experienced campaigners like Alviro Petersen and Neil Mckenzie. In bowling, the Lions have the ferocious Chris Morris. That the pacer was the highest wicket-taker with 21 wickets in the domestic T20 competition speaks a lot about his abilities. He will be supported by the experienced duo of Dirk Nannes and Sohail Tanvir. In batting, the Titans will rely on De Kock, Vandiar, Mckenzie, Gulam Bodi.

Key Players: Alviro Petersen, Quinton de Kock, Chris Morris

Sydney Sixers

Playing a team game is the mantra of the side. You will get a clear picture when you go through this statistic. They won the inaugural Big Bash in style last season. And, interestingly, none of their players finished in the top-five batsmen or bowlers of the competition. That certainly says a lot about the character of the side. And they are expected to follow the same philosophy.

Key Players: Shane Watson, Steven Smith, Pat Cummins

Mumbai Indians

Having Lasith Malinga and Mitchell Johnson in the squad, means MI have the required firepower to make full use of the South African conditions. And then having Sachin Tendulkar in the side is always an advantage, even if the matches are played on Mars. In Harbhajan Singh they have a feisty captain, who will not step back in front of a challenge. Being the defending champions, they will have to start the tournament with pressure of being one of the favourites. But with Sachin around, things shouldn’t be that difficult. Kieron Pollard, part of the World T20-winning West Indies squad, bears the badge of the X-factor in the side. And yes, watch out for local lad Richard Levi. He hasn’t made the impact that his debut had promised, but the home conditions might just give his record a face lift. However, matches aren’t won on paper and the Mumbai Indians have been far from clinical during the last season of the IPL. It remains to be seen if they have worked on their inability to pull off close matches convincingly. That will certainly have a bearing on their showing.

Key players: Sachin Tendulkar, Lasith Malinga, Kieron Pollard

Yorkshire

For Yorkshire — the runners-up in the Friends Life T20 — this might just be their first and last Champions League T20 experience. This is because England have decided to withdraw from the tournament after this season since their domestic calendar clashes with the league. So, they will be eager to finish on a high. Led by Andrew Gale, Yorkshire have no superstars and are a young side. Their most experienced player is left-arm seamer Ryan Sidebottom and he will lead the attack. Partnering him will be pacer Steven Patterson. In the absence of the injured batsman Jonny Bairstow, David Miller will be expected to shoulder the batting responsibilities. The South African middle-order batsman was Yorkshire’s highest run-getter in the Friends Life T20 with 390 runs at a strike-rate of 153.54.

Key players: Ryan Sidebottom, Phil Jaques, David Miller

Compiled by Sportsdesk

All About Numbers

THE FINAL CLASH 2009 (in Hyderabad): New South Wales 159/9 in 20 ovs. Trinidad & Tobago 118 in 15.5 ovs. NSW won by 41 runs

2010 (in Johannesburg): Warriors 128/7 in 20 ovs. Chennai Super Kings 132/2 in 19 ovs. CSK won by 8 wkts

2011 (in Chennai): Mumbai Indians 139 in 20 ovs. Royal Challengers Bangalore 108 in 19.2 ovs. MI won by 31 runs

TEAM RECORDS Highest team total — 215/8 (20 ovs) by RCB vs South Australia (Bangalore, Oct. 5, 2011)

Highest team total (batting 2nd and winning) — 215/8 (20 ovs) by RCB vs South Australia (Bangalore, Oct. 5, 2011)

Lowest team total — 70 (15.3 ovs) by Central Districts vs Wayamba (Port Elizabeth, Sept. 22, 2010)

BIGGEST WINS By 97 runs — CSK bt Wayamba (Centurion, Sept. 15, 2010)

By 9 wkts — Three teams (RCB bt Guyana in 2010; Lions bt Guyana in 2010; KKR bt RCB in 2011)

With 49 balls to spare — New South Wales bt Somerset (Hyderabad, Oct. 18, 2009)

NARROWEST WINS By 2 runs — Mumbai Indians bt RCB (Durban, Sept. 19, 2010)

By 1 wkt — Two teams (Somerset bt Deccan Chargers at Hyderabad, Oct. 10 2009 & Mumbai Indians bt T&T at Bangalore, Sept. 26, 2011)

TIED MATCHES Sussex & Eagles, Delhi, Oct. 13, 2009 (Eagles won the Super over 9-0)

CSK & Victoria, Port Elizabeth, Sept. 18, 2010 (Victoria won the Super over 23-13)

T&T & NSW, Chennai, Sept. 28, 2011 (NSW won Super over 18-15)

INDIVIDUAL RECORDS

BATTING Leading run-getter — David Warner, 535 runs

Centuries (Top 3)

135* — David Warner, NSW vs CSK (Chennai, Oct. 4, 2011)

123* — David Warner, NSW vs RCB (Bangalore, Oct. 7, 2011)

108* — Daniel Harris, South Australia vs RCB (Bangalore, Oct. 5, 2011)

Fastest individual 100 — Off 58 balls, by David Warner (135*), NSW vs CSK (Chennai, Oct. 4, 2011) & Daniel Harris (108*), South Australia vs RCB (Bangalore, Oct. 5, 2011)

Most sixes by a batsman — 33, by Kieron Pollard (T&T/MI)

Most fours by a batsman — 55 by David Warner (NSW)

BOWLING Leading wicket-taker — 21, by Dwayne Bravo (TT/CSK)

Best bowling — 5/32 (4 ovs), by Shaun Tait, South Australia vs RCB (Bangalore, Oct. 5, 2011)

Hat-tricks — Isuru Udana (3/22), Wayamba vs Central Districts (Port Elizabeth, Sept. 22, 2010)

Most sixes conceded by a bowler — 14, by Aaron ’Brien (South Australia)

Mohandas Menon