CLT20: Faisalabad Wolves hope cubs come to the party
The Champions League Twenty20 enters its fourth season with the qualifying matches commencing in Mohali on Tuesday.
The other teams aside, special focus will be on Pakistan's domestic champions Faisalabad Wolves who will play their first qualifier match against New Zealand's Otago Volts on Tuesday.
The other match of the day will be played between star-studded Sunrisers Hyderabad, led by Delhi-dasher Shikhar Dhawan and Sri Lanka's Kandurata Maroons at the PCA stadium.
Barring Volts, the other three teams in the Qualifiers come from the sub-continent, but none among the four feels that either has any big advantage in the event.
The top two teams will advance to the main draw, which has three Indian teams in the fray -- IPL champions Mumbai Indians, runners-up Chennai Super Kings and third-place finishers Rajasthan Royals.
Image: The Faisalabad Wolves
Photographs: Michael Steele/Getty Images
'We are confident that youngsters will deliver on the big stage'
The Wolves, who have a young squad, will rely heavily on their promising medium-pacer Ehsan Adil, Ali Waqas, Khuram Shahzad, Asad Ali, besides banking on the experience of skipper Misbah and Saeed Ajmal, who has been a national asset in all three formats after his Test debut four years back.
The Wolves will draw strength from the fact that at the domestic level, they beat star-studded teams. The Wolves are only the second team from Pakistan to compete in the event after Sialkot Stallions participated last year.
Their presence in the event was ensured after much speculation that arose out of rising border tensions between India and Pakistan.
"Barring Misbah and Ajmal, we are mainly a young squad, but there is lot of potential in our young players. We are confident that they will deliver on the big stage," the team's wicketkeeper and vice-captain, Mohamed Salman said.
Image: Mohammad Salman of Faisalabad
Photographs: Michael Steele/Getty Images
'Lack of international cricket in Pakistan won't make a difference to our performance'
"Even though we don't have international cricket happening in our country, the standard of our domestic cricket is very high...I don't see the lack of international cricket in Pakistan making any difference to our performance," he said.
Salman and coach Naveed Anjum feel that Misbah’s wealth of experience will come good for the side.
"Misbah performed brilliantly for us in the shorter versions, especially in the last season. He was the highest run-getter for us in our domestic T20 tournament. Besides being highly important to the team as a batsman, he plays a very crucial role as the leader," said Anjum.
The team has been practising hard back home for the tournament and familiar surfaces of the sub-continent would be a bonus for it.
Photographs: Nikhil Monteiro/Reuters
'We know it is going to be tough for us to get past the Qualifiers'
Volts, who crashed out of the 2009 season by losing their first two matches, have the likes of swashbuckling skipper Brendon McCullum and brother Nathan McCullum in their ranks.
The Kiwis arrived here after a training camp in Sri Lanka to get used to the conditions.
"This is a tough Qualifiers round. Look at all the teams, they are all good on the paper. We know it is going to be tough for us to get past the Qualifiers," McCullum said.
The Kiwi wicketkeeper-batsman said beating tough opponents will surely give them the confidence as they go ahead in the tournament.
"The wicket is slightly faster and bouncier than the normal Indian tracks, we can be confident that we have the right team to exploit the conditions."
He said his team was also confident of tackling the spin bowling challenge and had done all the preparations.
Image: Michael Bracewell of the Otago Volts
Photographs: Simon Watts/Getty Images
'We are a young team but some of our players are very experienced'
However, in the second game of the day the contest is likely to be lop-sided. Shikhar Dhawan's star-studded Sunrisers Hyderabad, featuring the likes of Parthiv Patel, Cameron White, Darren Sammy, Dale Steyn, Thisara Perera and Ishant Sharma and win looks likely for them.
Sri Lankan Lahiru Thirimanne, captaining Kandurata Maroons, will take solace from the fact that the presence of international cricketers such as Kumar Sangakkara, Ajantha Mendis and Nuwan Kulasekara besides Rangana Herath, give his team a good balance of youth and experience.
"We are a young team but some of our players are very experienced and that makes for a very good combination," the Maroons skipper said.
The Squads for the qualifiers:
Faisalabad Wolves: Misbah-ul-Haq, Asif Alli, Ali Waqas, Khuram Shahzad, Muhammad Salman, Waqas Mqsood, Sami Ullah Kham Niazi, Asad Ali, Saeed Ajmal, Ehsan Adil, Hassan Mahmood, Rana Jahandad Khan, Farrukh Shahzad, Imran Khalid, Ammar Mahmood Khan.
Otago Volts: Nicholas Beard, Michael Bracewell, Neil Broom, Ian Butler, Mark Craig, Derek de Boorder, Jacob Duffy, Brendon McCullum, James McMillan, James Neesham, Aaron Redmond, Hamish Rutherford, Ryan ten Doeschate, Neil Wagner.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Shikhar Dhawan, Parthiv Patel, Cameron White, JP Duminy, Dale Steyn, Darren Sammy, Biplab Samantray, Thisara Perera, Karan Sharma, Hanuma Vihari, Ashish Reddy, Ishant Sharma, Anand Rajan.
Kandurata Maroons: Lahiru Thirimanne, Nuwan Kulasekara, Upul Tharanga, Thilina Kandamby, Kumar Sangakkara, Shehan Jayasuriya, Chamara Silva, Milinda Siriwardana, Dilhara Lokuhettige, Dhammika Prasad, Ajantha Mendis, Kaushal Lokuarachchi, Lahiru Jayaratne, Dhananjaya de Silva, Suraj Randiv.
Image: Kumar Sangakkara
Photographs: Randy Brooks/LatinContent/Getty Images