Mohali: Still trying to find its foothold in the cricketing landscape, the Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) will enter its fifth season, here, on Tuesday, with the qualifying matches during which Pakistan’s domestic champions Faisalabad Wolves are likely to hog the limelight.
A league which was born out of the hugely successful IPL, CLT20 is gradually establishing its identity, but it would take some time for it to truly have a connect with the fans. The event will kick off with Faisalabad Wolves, led by Pakistan’s Test skipper Misbah-ul Haq, taking on New Zealand’s Otago Volts in the first qualifier.
This would be followed by a star-studded Sunrisers Hyderabad, led by the dasher Shikhar Dhawan, squaring off against Sri Lanka’s Kandurata Maroons in the second qualifier, at the PCA stadium.
Barring Volts, the other three teams in the qualifiers come from the sub-continent. But none among the four feels that either of the teams have a big advantage in the event. The top two teams will advance to the main draw, which has three Indian teams in fray — IPL champions Mumbai Indians, runners-up Chennai Super Kings and third-place finishers Rajasthan Royals.
In their opening match, the Wolves would rely mainly on their young players, including promising medium-pacer Ehsan Adil, Ali Waqas, Khuram Shahzad and Asad Ali, besides banking on the experience of skipper Misbah and Saeed Ajmal. Both Misbah and Ajmal have been a national asset in all three formats.
The Wolves, who had some visa issues when they landed here, will draw strength from the fact that at the domestic level, they beat teams having many stars. The Wolves are only the second team from Pakistan to compete in the event after Sialkot Stallions last year. Their presence in the event was ensured after much speculation that arose out of rising border tensions between India and Pakistan.
“Barring Misbah and Ajmal, we are mainly a young squad, but there is lot of potential in our young players. We are confident that they will deliver at the big stage,” wicket-keeper and vice-captain Mohamed Salman said. “Even though we don’t have international cricket happening in our country, the standard of our domestic cricket is very high... I don’t see lack of international cricket in Pakistan making any difference to our performance,” he said.
Salman and coach Naveed Anjum feel that Misbah brings with him a wealth of experience and has also performed brilliantly in the shorter version of the game. “Misbah performed brilliantly for us in the shorter versions, especially in the last season. He was the highest run-getter for us in our domestic T20 tournament. “Besides being highly important to the team as a batsman, he plays a very crucial role as the leader,” said Anjum.
The team have been practising hard back home for the tournament and familiar surfaces of the sub-continent would be a bonus for them. Volts, who crashed out of the 2009 season after losing their first two matches, comprise the likes of the swashbuckling Brendon McCullum and brother Nathan to negate any advantage the other teams may get by virtue of familiar surfaces.
The New Zealand side arrived here after a training camp in Sri Lanka to get used to the conditions. “This is a tough qualifying round. Look at all the teams, they are all good on paper. We know it is going to be tough for us to get past the qualifiers,” skipper McCullum said. (Agencies)