JAIPUR – Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid playing their last tournament for their respective sides, continued to dominate the limelight in all discussions leading up to the Champions League Twenty20 Tournament.
However, when Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals clash in the opening match of the main tournament tomorrow, the talks of swan-song will take the back-seat and cricket will be the main focus as the power-packed T20 Cricket League sides will be keen to make a winning start when they clash at the Sawai Mansingh stadium in Jaipur.
The IPL champions of 2008, Rajasthan Royals, are making their maiden appearance in the Champions League while 2011 CLT20 champs Mumbai will be making their fourth appearance in the tournament’s fifth year. In the IPL these two sides have faced off 12 times with Mumbai emerging victorious on seven occasions.
The Royals have a formidable batting line-up with an impressive top-order that consists of Shane Watson, Ajinkya Rahane and Brad Hodge, apart from skipper Dravid. They also have useful all-rounders in Trinidad and Tobago’s Kevon Cooper, Stuart Binny and Ashok Menaria, who are match-winners in their own right.
Youngsters Sanju Samson and Sachin Baby are also capable of coming up with good shows with the bat. Rajasthan have enough in their batting arsenal to challenge the quality Mumbai bowling attack and what they will be looking for is consistency, which their captain is an epitome of.
Rajasthan’s bowling department though presents a depleted look with quite a few bowlers missing from the line-up. Following the spot-fixing saga, which overshadowed the latter part of the T20-League 6, S Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Siddharth Trivedi were banned by the BCCI while Ajit Chandila too is out of the reckoning due to his involvement in fixing, although his case is still being heard.
James Faulkner, who bowled impressively during the 2013 edition of the T20-League, will be spearheading the pace attack which also has Shaun Tait while Watson and Cooper will have crucial roles to play too. Menaria and Hodge are the spin options for Rajasthan while they can also utilise the 41-year-old spinner Pravin Tambe.
Like it has always been the case over the years, Mumbai’s batting line-up is a power-packed one, studded with several players who have had sufficient international experience. Sachin Tendulkar at the top of the order along with West Indies Dwayne
Smith, followed by Dinesh Karthik and Rohit Sharma, make up for a solid top order. The ones to follow after that include West Indies powerhouse Kieron Pollard and Ambati Rayudu and with the option of including Glenn Maxwell, Mumbai’s middle order is also well-packed. With such a batting order, that any team would kill to possess, all Mumbai will be hoping for is a steady showing throughout the tournament.
Mumbai’s pace attack will be without their spearhead over the years, Lasith Malinga, as the Sri Lankan has opted out of the tournament due to personal reasons. While his absence is a big setback for the reigning T20-League champs, the presence of Mitchell Johnson – who bowled superbly in the 2013 edition of the IPL – and promising Australian quick Nathan Coulter-Nile, Mumbai have sufficient fire-power.
Abu Nechim has also proved to be an useful addition to the pace attack in the past, and he will have a good opportunity to show-case his skills while Pollard’s medium pace will also come in handy for Mumbai. The Rohit Sharma-led side also has in its possession a quality spin attack with the presence of Pragyan Ojha, Harbhajan Singh and Maxwell, while the skipper himself has proved to be useful in the past with his part-time off-spin.