CLT20 2013: Top-10 players to watch out for
Where hitters like MS Dhoni and Kieron Pollard are expected to shine, elder statesmen of the game like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid will play the Champions League T20 as their last and final hurrah in professional T20s.
The 2013 Champions League Twenty20 will showcase some established stars and some who will play T20s for one final time. Here is a look at the top-10 players to watch out for in the upcoming cash-rich tournament.
Sachin Tendulkar: The 2013 Champions League T20 will be the last professional Twenty20 assignment of Sachin Tendulkar's illustrious career. With speculation rife over his impending retirement from Test cricket, the Master Blaster will be looking to give his best, in what would be his last final hurrah for the Mumbai Indians. The 40-year-old iconic cricketer is looking forward to the tournament after having recuperated from the hand injury and back into training. Although Sachin has been a massive contributor in the Indian Premier League, the tournament from which he has retired, he has not been great shakes in the Champions League. In eight CLT20 games he played from 2010-12, Sachin has a total of 195 runs at an average of 24 and a strike-rate of 113, with just one fifty (best of 69). But the maestro would want to improve on that record to help the 2011 champions seal a double of IPL and CLT20 titles in the same year.
Rahul Dravid: One of the heartening factors in the 2013 Indian Premier League was the way Rahul Dravid lead and mentored the Rajasthan Royals into the play-offs. Like Tendulkar, Dravid proved that at 40, age is just a number. Fighting the odds of spot-fixing, that shattered the team en route to the last-4 spot, Dravid came out stronger as a leader of a young and inexperienced outfit. With the Wall, consistency as a top-order batsman still remains his hallmark. He scored whopping 471 runs in 18 games in the IPL this year at an average of nearly 30. Dravid, as always, lends stability to the batting line-up and acts as an apt foil for stroke-making batsmen like Ajinyka Rahane and Shane Watson at the other end. In the two Champions League editions (2010-11) he played for his previous side Royal Challengers Bangalore, Dravid registered 234 runs in 9 games at an impressive average of 39 and a best of 71 not out. Dravid, would also like to finish on a high for his side, not just with runs but with a podium finish for the Royals.
MS Dhoni: The Indian captain will be in action for the first time since the final of tri-series in West Indies where his last-over finish against Sri Lanka gave India the title. Dhoni's hitting abilities need no introduction. For the Chennai Super Kings, their skipper is not just an inspiration leader but a dependable middle order force that oppositions are always wary of. He hammered 32 fours and 25 sixes in this year's IPL, scoring a whopping 461 runs with the help of 4 fifties in 18 games at an excellent average of nearly 42. Not to forget a strike-rate (162) second only to big-hitter David Miller and AB de Villiers (both 164). In Champions League T20 history though, Dhoni has 245 runs in 14 games at an average of 27 and no fifties to his name (best of 35). By all means he would aim to better those stats and take CK to their second title.
Michael Hussey: Perhaps one of the most dependable batsmen in all formats the game has seen in the last 4 or 5 years, Michael Hussey will be keenly watched. Mr Cricket, who shocked the cricketing world by announcing retirement earlier this year, was IPL's highest run-getter this season. With 733 runs at a mind-boggling average of 52, the Australian equalled the IPL record for most runs in a single edition along with Gayle. The 38-year-old thrives in hitting the gaps. Blessed with the gift of timing, the ball races to the fence once it hits the middle of his bat. His record 81 fours (most in a single IPL season) in 2013 is a testimony of that fact. Oppositions would do well to get him out early otherwise he'll make them pay big time by batting right through the innings. His record in the Champions League T20 is not bad either - 308 runs in just 9 matches at an average of 38.50 and a best of 81. Hussey will once again look to give the 2010 champions a solid start and a thrilling finish.
Dale Steyn: The world's No.1 Test bowler was the backbone of the Sunrisers Hyderabad bowling attack in the team's debut season in the IPL. The South African speedster swings the ball away from the right-hander and at a fair clip. Rarely do opposition openers line up to take the attack to the fiery pacer. Steyn thus is quite economical and as a strike bowler he is the go to man for his captain in need of wickets. In 2013 IPL, he took 19 wickets in 17 games at an economy rate of just over 5 and a half. His stats in the Champions League T20 are a tad poorer. Representing the Cape Cobras and the Royal Challengers Bangalore from 2010-12 Steyn has 9 CLT20 wickets in 11 games at an economy rate of 6.80. Along with Ishant Sharma and an in-form Amit Mishra, Steyn will once again take centrestage in the bowling-heavy outfit.
AB de Villiers: The South African ODI skipper is representing the Titans in Champions League T20. The thirty-year-old wicketkeeper batsman is a multi-faceted asset to any side. He manoeuvres his batting style depending on the need of the hour and is livewire on the field. Apart from that, he is one of the most dependable wicket-keepers going around in world cricket at the moment. De Villiers had the joint-best strike rate (164 runs per hundred balls) in 2013 IPL, hitting 360 runs for the Royal Challengers Bangalore from 14 games with two fifties including a best of 64. De Villiers' role was that of a finisher in a top-heavy batting unit and maintained the high run-rate once the likes of Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli were dismissed. He becomes extremely dangerous with the bat in the death overs while unleashing his brand of unorthodox strokes like reverse sweep and reverse swat over point and third-man. He has played only one game in Champions League T20, for the Royal Challengers, way back in 2011 when he scored 31 against Warriors. De Villiers' presence in the South African T20 runners-up line up will make sure no opposition takes them lightly.
Shane Watson: Rajasthan Royals' go-to man in all situations - Shane Watson - is expected to deliver with both bat and the ball at all times. And for the inaugural IPL winners the world's top limited-overs all-rounders has not disappointed in the first and the sixth edition of the cash-rich league. Watson seemed to have got his bearings right with the bat coming into the tournament with his first Ashes ton against England in the final Test at the Oval. The smaller boundaries in India will further egg him on to face up to any bowler the opposition employs. Batting at the top of the order for the Royals, Watson was 5th highest run-getter in 2013 IPL, gathering 543 runs in 16 games at an average of 38.78 with a hundred and two fifites. Watson was also vital for the Sydney Sixers' winning cause last year, scoring 104 runs in three games and picking up 5 wickets.
Sunil Narine: World's best ranked Twenty20 bowler Sunil Narine returns back to where it all began for him, the Champions League T20. The unorthodox West Indies off-spinner came into limelight during the 2011 CLT20 where he took 10 wickets in 6 games for Trinidad and Tobago at an average of 10 and an astounding economy rate of 4.37. For the Kolkata Knight Riders Narine took 22 wickets in 16 games this season, but the 2012 champions could not book a CLT20 berth. The 25-year-old mo-hawked Narine will once again showcase his skills for his local team and hope to get the best out of the helpful surfaces in India.
Kieron Pollard: Just like Narine, Kieron Pollard returns to his watershed tournament. His antics with the bat in the inaugural Champions League T20 edition against the eventual winners New South Wales was perhaps till now one of the best big-hitting performances in the tournament's short history. One of the few players to have played all editions of the CLT20, Pollard is the second-highest run-getter in the tournament history behind David Warner (556 runs), scoring 479 runs at an average of 30 in 20 games (most matches by any player). To boot that, a strike-rate of 165 makes Pollard a hot property for any team. He also has 7 CLT20 wickets to his name. Will he continue his dream run in this competition?
Ashton Agar: This rookie Australian entered record books by hitting the highest score by a No.11 batsman, that too on his debut against England in the first Ashes Test earlier this year. Interestingly, Agar is yet to play a professional Twenty20 game and when the 19-year-old left-arm spinner plays for the Perth Scorchers it will be something to look forward too. Agar, at 6 feet 2 inches, bowls with a high-arm action and is expected to get little turn and bounce from the helpful Indian wickets. His batting in the lower middle order is an added asset.