Jaipur: For any side, to lose players of the calibre of Shaun Marsh, Mike Hussey, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Marsh and Alfonso Thomas together would be a crippling blow. That's exactly what's happened to Perth Scorchers in the Champions League Twenty20 2013, but far from looking immobilised, they are bouncing with enthusiasm.
Perth haven't had a match in the CLT20 so far, with their tie against Highveld Lions one of the two washed out in Ahmedabad on Monday (September 23). The forecast looks brighter for their next match, against Otago Volts at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on Wednesday, and though they are the underdogs, the squad's spirit remains high.
"Our biggest strength is probably our unity," said Brad Hogg, the left-arm spinner. "It is one of the closest-knit teams that I have ever been involved with." Hogg is the elder statesman of the Simon Katich-led side at 42 years old, but he looked as spry as Tom Triffit, the wicketkeeper. Triffit, 22, and Hogg both emphasised that losing six players - all of whom would have been in the squad if available - might have been tough, but it opened up opportunities for the other members. In the long run, that would only be a good thing.
Hogg said that rather than looking at winning the CLT20, Perth was looking at the tournament as part of their growth curve. And while they intended to go all the way, they were realistic.
"We're not looking at miracles," he said. "We're expecting to start winning tournaments two years down the track, but if we have early success, it's just going to be a massive bonus."
Hogg is familiar with the pitches at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, having been part of the Rajasthan Royals, and he said Jaipur felt like "a second home".
"I think the Jaipur wicket is pretty similar to what we have grown up on in Perth - fast-paced and bouncy," said Hogg. "This one is a little skiddy though."
However, in a turnaround of sorts, the Perth side's bowling attack is more spin-heavy, with Hogg, Ashton Agar, Ashton Turner and Michael Beer all in the squad. With a wry smile, Hogg admitted that spin was his side's strength: "It is a strange comment for a team coming from WACA."
But even with the loss of star players, conditions that would probably favour pacers more than spinners, and an in-form side in Otago who have won all their qualifying matches, the ebullience in the Perth side was hard to miss.
Triffit said the side's preparation was as good as it could be. "The way we've been going about our training leading up to this tournament, we couldn't be better prepared," he said. "We are amongst the fittest sides in the competition so that will hold us in great stead."
According to Hogg, Perth were not in the CLT20 to merely make up the numbers. "I just think we have got a young team that has got nothing to lose and they are all here to learn," he said. "We are very well disciplined and all the younger guys want to achieve great things in the future too. We are not easy to beat in this competition at the moment."