Airtel Champions League Twenty20 preview
One year later than planned due to the Mumbai terrorist attacks of last year, the inaugural Airtel Champions League Twenty20 takes place and it starts on Thursday.
A lot of the build up to the tournament has been about the players who won't be playing this year with Michael Clarke, Nathan Bracken, Graeme Smith, Daniel Vettori, Jesse Ryder, AB de Villiers and Paul Collingwood all pulling out in the last week with various injuries and niggles picked up from the Champions Trophy.
In the case of the favourites, the Delhi Daredevils (9/2), this is bad news with three of these players (Vettori, Colly and De Villiers) all due to be representing them. However, they still have talent in an explosive top order of Gautam Gambhir (16/1 top tournament batsman), Virender Sehwag (14/1 top tournament bastman) and the potential star of the tournament in Tillekaratne Dilshan (12/1 top tournament batsman) who is hoping to regain his World Twenty20 form after a disappointing Champions Trophy. I have had a large bet personally on Delhi to win this tournament and am still confident that they will be lifting the trophy.
England is represented by Twenty20 Cup finalists Sussex and Somerset. Both though might struggle as much with the Indian conditions as well as the opposition. Sussex (12/1) will be missing two of their best players in Murray Goodwin and Matt Prior. A lot will depend on Indian Test player Piyush Chawla (28/1 top tournament bowler) who will be adept to the conditions and turned in a number of match winning performances at the back end of the county season.
Marcus Trescothick (20/1 top tournament batsman) is the key to Somerset's (14/1) chances, much care has been taken to ensure Tresco's participation in this competition and I hope that he goes out there and shows what England are missing because I still believe he's one of the best one day/Twenty20 players in the world. It will also be interesting to see how youngsters like James Hildreth and Max Waller do in the sub continent to help their development. Justin Langer I believe will have his hands full to mould a competitive unit in his swansong as Somerset player and captain.
Indian Premier League sides will start as favourites to lift the trophy, as well as Delhi, Deccan Chargers (5/1) and Bangalore (6/1) are also in the field. Bangalore will be missing Kevin Pietersen as he recovers from his Achilles surgery. Deccan were the surprise package of this year's IPL, going from last to winning the 2009 version and will be hoping Adam Gilchrist (14/1 top tournament batsman) and Andrew Symonds (25/1 top tournament batsman) will be able to recapture that form in this competition and complete the double.
Other countries to have representatives in this twelve team competition are Australia with New South Wales (6/1) and Victoria (8/1); South Africa with Cape Cobras (12/1) and Free State Eagles (12/1); New Zealand with Otago (14/1); West Indies with Trinidad & Tobago (16/1) and finally Sri Lanka with Wayamba (12/1).
Of all of these teams, I would expect the two Australian teams to prove the strongest, the Twenty20 Big Bash that is the Australian domestic tournament is of a very high standard and players like David Warner (18/1 top tournament batsman) and Rob Quiney (28/1 top tournament batsman) have recently broken through into the Australian Twenty20 team. It is difficult to split them but I have a feeling that New South Wales will go well in the tournament, I believe the ability to bowl teams out is a crucial element in the competition and in Brett Lee (14/1 top tournament bowler) and Nathan Hauritz (25/1 top tournament bowler) they have two form bowlers fresh from success in the Champions Trophy.
Delhi Daredevils - Outright - 9/2
New South Wales - Outright - 6/1