Brisbane Heat take on Trinidad & Tobago in their Champions League Twenty20 2013 opener at JSCA International Stadium on Sunday (September 22) afternoon in what the good people at Ranchi will view as an opening act, the appetiser, ahead of Mahendra Singh Dhoni's 'home' game later in the day.
While Ranchi is bustling with excitement at the upcoming week of action, rain has been a constant in the build-up to matchday. It poured for a bit on Saturday afternoon, forcing T&T to cancel their practice match. However, the pace bowlers on both sides will be licking their lips at what could be surprisingly helpful conditions in spin-friendly India if the clouds stay around.
Both Brisbane and T&T will field significantly weaker teams after losing star players to the Indian Premier League franchises. Injuries and other factors haven't helped either. However, devoid of the stars who attract the limelight, both teams will hope to fly under the radar and spring a surprise or two.
James Hopes, the Australian allrounder, led Brisbane in their triumphant Big Bash League (BBL) 2012-13 campaign, but will be without Luke Pomersbach, Brisbane's top scorer with 397 runs during the BBL, after he pulled out of the squad citing personal reasons. Brisbane will also be without Shane Watson, who is with Rajasthan Royals, Thisara Perera, who is with Sunrisers Hyderabad, and Mitchell Johnson, who is with Mumbai Indians. Ryan Harris sustained an injury during an otherwise impressive Ashes campaign in August, and is still sidelined.
With all the absentees, Brisbane have a fairly frail squad, and both their batting and bowling departments are a concern. The loss of Pomersbach and Watson leaves them without a proven T20 dictator, capable of consistently putting in match-winning batting performances. Without Johnson and Harris, the bowling isn't up to the mark either, although they do have Kemar Roach, the West Indies paceman, to lead the attack.
Providing support to Roach will be Ben Cutting, who was Brisbane's highest wicket-taker during the BBL with 13 in seven matches, and Alister McDermott, who claimed ten wickets in six BBL matches. And while Chris Lynn could be a surprise package, the squad has ample experience as well in Hopes, who has played for Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab and Pune Warriors in the IPL, Daniel Christian and Nathan Hauritz.
Meanwhile, T&T, the Caribbean domestic T20 champions, head into the tournament knowing it's their last chance to claim the prize with the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), a franchise-based tournament, having replaced the regional competition in the West Indies recently.
The closest T&T have come to winning the CLT20 was in 2009, when New South Wales beat them by 41 runs in the final in Hyderabad. That happened despite the involvement of Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo - the two pillars of the team - both of whom they have lost to IPL teams for this year's tournament. Their challenge, therefore, will be to progress despite the absence of the big boys in what could be a fairytale, final hurrah.
T&T do boast of a fairly strong squad. The one name which stands out is that of Sunil Narine, who has a lot of experience in sub-continental conditions given his largely successful time with Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL. Lendl Simmons, who finished as second-highest scorer in the CPL with 266 runs in nine matches, will also be a key player if he can carry the good form into the tournament. That apart, the likes of Denesh Ramdin, the captain, Samuel Badree and Ravi Rampaul, returning from an ankle injury, will all bring valuable experience.
In a short tournament spanning just over three weeks, a bad start will be hard to recover from. Both teams will be well aware of that, and it could make for a thoroughly satisfying contest.
Brisbane Heat: James Hopes (capt), Joe Burns, Daniel Christian, Ben Cutting, Peter Forrest, Matthew Gale, Cameron Gannon, Chris Hartley (wk), Nathan Hauritz, Chris Lynn, Alister McDermott, Dom Michael, Kemar Roach, Chris Sabburg, Brad Hipson.
Trinidad & Tobago: Denesh Ramdin (capt, wk), Samuel Badree, Adrian Barath, Darren Bravo, Rayad Emrit, Shannon Gabriel, Sherwin Ganga, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammad, Sunil Narine, Yannick Ottley, Nicholas Pooran, Ravi Rampaul, Lendl Simmons, Navin Stewart.