The Indian Premier League, launched in 2008, has been a runaway success, despite the numerous controversies that have accompanied it in the past six years. But surprisingly, its cousin, the Champions League T20, which began a couple of years after IPL is still finding its feet amongst its fans.
The fourth edition of CLT20 gets underway in Mohali today and India’s man-of-the-moment Shikhar Dhawan will corner a greater share of the attention as he leads Sunrisers Hyderabad out against Kandurata Maroons in the second qualifying match of the evening.
Faisalabad Wolves who have endured a torrid time over the past few days, first with their visa woes and then their accommodation, will kick off proceedings against Otago in the opening qualifier before the dashing left-hander and his entourage takes centre-stage.
Both Sunrisers and Maroons are making their maiden appearance in the CLT20. The Sunrisers finished among the top four teams in the league phase IPL 2013, but a loss to Rajasthan Royals in the eliminator meant they have to compete in the qualifiers to progress to the main draw of the tournament.
Will Steyn fire?
Meanwhile, the Maroons defeated the Basnahira Greens in the final of the Sri Lanka Cricket Super 4s Twenty20 tournament — the qualifying event in Sri Lanka — to seal a berth in the CLT20 2013 qualifiers.
The pace bowlers including Dale Steyn and Ishant Sharma, combined with spinners Amit Mishra and Karan Sharma ensured Sunrisers were a force to reckon with in IPL VI and they will have to perform splendidly if they want a smooth ride in the current competition.
Since his brilliant Test debut against Australia earlier this year, Dhawan has been batting like a man possessed and his side will hope he can recreate the magic in the shortest version of cricket as well.
In a team that does not have too many match-winners with the bat, Dhawan, together with Cameron White, will be expected to score big runs consistently.
With a lot riding on these matches, it remains to be seen if the Sunrisers Hyderabad will promote the dashing left-hander up the order to get the most out of him.
Leading the charge
The Maroons have several players with international experience in their ranks, and they will back themselves to do well in these high-pressure matches. Veteran Kumar Sangakkara, will be expected to drop anchor, allowing others to play their strokes freely and pile on the runs.
A lot will be expected from the two left-handers at the top of the innings - Thilina Kandamby and Upul Tharanga. On the bowling front, the very deceptive Nuwan Kulasekara will be expected to strike early.
Live on TV:
* CLT20 qualifiers: Otago Volts vs Faislabad Wolves on Star Sports, Star Cricket and Star Cricket HD, 16:00
* Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Kandurata Maroons on Star Sports, Star Cricket and Star Cricket HD, 20:00