With spot-fixing clouds still around, the extravagant Airtel Champions League Twenty20 starts on Friday in South Africa.
The second season of the league kicks off with the underdogs, Highveld Lions playing against a team which landed in South Africa as hot favourites, Mumbai Indians.
Any team that has Sachin Tendulkar is bound to be viewed with respect, fear and a lot of affection. The fear factor will of course play for the bowlers every time Tendulkar walks out into the middle. Despite finishing second best in the IPL, the Mumbai Indians were arguably the most complete side of the tournament.
The Indians have a solid batting line-up with the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, JP Duminy, Kieron Pollard and Saurabh Tiwary. Dangerous and destructive. The reason why Mumbai Indians present such an all-round enigma is because they have some extremely potent bowlers stacked up in their ranks. Lasith Malinga and Harbhajan Singh with Dwayne Bravo will be an envious attack to have in South Africa. Mumbai will of course keep their fingers crossed for Zaheer Khan to be fit in time.
While the Warriors are filled with an array of international stars, the Highveld Lions pride themselves on making use of the available local talent.
Besides Petersen, Neil Mckenzie is the other international player of repute in the squad. The Lions recently signed former Proteas skipper Kepler Wessels as the team’s strategic consultant hoping to utilise his expertise knowledge. Wessels was the coach of Chennai Super Kings during the inaugural edition of IPL in 2008.
With that being said, it will not be easy for Mumbai Indians to see off the Lions' challenge. The Lions' over a period of time have built a resistant character. They have been in the worst of situations and bounced back. The biggest example can be their domestic campaign, where they won the inaugural T20 Championship in South Africa but were on the back foot and lingering around the bottom half of the table since then. However, this season, they turned it around and finished runners up to the Warriors.
Another factor which could prove to be vital during the match could be the team chemistry. The Mumbai Indians' players meet every year for a month or so, whereas, the Lions play as a team all season long. Even though Mumbai Indians is a much more talented team on paper, one cannot count the Lions out.
The Mumbai Indians have specialists in all the areas of the field, whereas, the Lions’ side comprises of at least half a dozen all rounders. It is yet to be seen whether the specialists will be able to overcome the resistance of the all rounders.
The Lions will be out to prove a point as they have already been labelled as the underdogs. Petersen, the Lions’ captain, claimed that their side will not roll over and die, instead, they will play to win every match. On the other hand, Mumbai Indians, the heavyweights of the tournament will look to kick start their campaign with a win. It is more a matter of pride than just two points. The opening match of the Airtel Champions League T20 is sure to provide fireworks to the supporters all around the world.