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Encouraging start to Champions League

Teams that are able to adapt quickly to trends will leave the sides that are slow to react in their dust

If the qualifying section is anything to go by this might be the best yet Champions League tournament. The qualifying tournament produced some good cricket and a few surprises, which all served to confirm a couple of adages about the game. Most importantly, whereas in the past a couple of sides have looked out of their depth in the tournament, this time it would appear that any of the ten teams could win the trophy. First the adages.


Somerset bowler Arul Suppiah (centre) celebrates the wicket of
KKR's Yusuf Pathan in a CLT20 qualifying match in Hyderabad on
September 21. Pic/AFP


Pitches that give the bowlers a chance produce the best cricket. The pitch in Hyderabad and Bangalore had bounce and a little bit of life, which meant the bowlers were always encouraged and the batsmen had to be constantly alert. Pitches with some life also encourage the braver captains to seek wickets rather than concentrate purely on containment. This is when the game is seen in it's best light.

Boundaries were fair
In addition, the boundaries at the Rajiv Gandhi stadium were fair; the sixes were legitimate and the mis-hits stayed inside the boundary rope. When the game becomes a boundary hitting bonanza it loses a lot of artistry and fielding and running between wickets, two of the more exciting aspects are reduced in importance.
Then there were the surprises.

The English side Somerset was a revelation. They played aggressive cricket, their batsmen successfully attacked the spinners without constantly resorting to the sweep shot and they have a good young leg-spinner in Max Waller.

Cricket world is in a state of flux
You know the cricket world is in a state of flux when England is producing leg-spinners and Australia, the land of Shane Warne, Bill O'Reilly and Richie Benaud, can't unearth a wrist-spinner. Fortunes also fluctuated during a couple of games.

In these games the result seemed to be heading in one direction only to dramatically switch tack like a good mystery novel, with a couple more surprises to follow and then a thrilling climax. This isn't the normal pattern associated with the shortest form of the game where it's generally expected that one or two bad overs virtually puts a team out of the contest.

Once again this was a reflection on the pitches provided. It reconfirmed that when the fielding captain and the bowlers feel like they have a chance, all hope is not lost. Also the trend of using spinners in the powerplay overs to both stifle scoring and take wickets has almost become the norm rather than the unusual. This has come about in part because of the reluctance of batsmen to use their feet to spinners. It's now up to the batsmen to answer this challenge.

If the game is to keep moving ahead these types of challenges have to be met immediately rather than generationally. The teams that are able to adapt quickly to trends and even set a few of their own will leave the sides that are slow to react in their dust.

The teams who work hard on getting their structure right and putting in place good systems for developing players will have a distinct advantage over any of their competitors who are tardy in this aspect of administration.

One of the areas of opportunity is in junior development. The best coaches should be in charge of the juniors -- from around age ten to sixteen -- where they can have the biggest affect on a young player. If teams develop young players to be complete cricketers then those clubs will take a huge step towards achieving prolonged success.

Player development
The teams who adopt a broader vision to player development will not only lead their opponents in skill but they'll also have greater depth of talent. With the amount of cricket being played now, the injuries mount up and the strength of the reserve players is critical. The teams with skilful reserves will have a huge advantage over those whose ranks are tissue paper thin.

A packed itinerary and injured players are now a part of the game and unfortunately there are some star players missing from the Champions League tournament. However, this only provides opportunity for the young and ambitious and judging by the qualifying tournament there are quite a few hungry players around.

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