The domestic T20 champions from across various continents are back for the sixth edition of the Champions League T20. The three-week long event has rolled off and it presents aplenty for the fans. Going by the teams that have gained automatic qualification, it is difficult to pick out a favourite, with all the eight teams looking strong and have all been champions in their backyard. The conditions will hold key here and that's where the Indian franchises will hold an edge over their counterparts.
The tournament could not have started on a better note with the qualifiers going down to the wire with all four teams in frame until the last day to gain qualification in the main event. Overall, it has been a good start and the organisers, fans and cricketers will hope it gets even better as the tournament progresses.
The previous five editions have seen three Indian and two Australian teams winning the coveted title. Amongst the Indian franchises, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have participated in all six editions and in terms of experience hold a major advantage. Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) will look to show their good IPL form here as well. Also, Australia's Hobart Hurricanes and Perth Scorchers make it an interesting team list, as both have plenty of big performers. South Africa's King Cobras team is filled with some big names and they have repeatedly dominated the South African T20 domestic circuit.
Newcomers Barbados Tridents and Dolphins present a scenario of surprise. Also the presence of a team from Pakistan (Lahore Lions) has added buzz and the Mohammed Hafeez-led side who came to India with a message of love, will try to win hearts with their performances. They played well in the qualifiers and will look to continue in the same vein. With some talented Pakistani internationals, Lahore Lions will be closely watched. They have already made an impact by reaching the main league of the tournament.
Let's have a look at some of the franchises that could make a mark in the tournament.
Kolkata Knight Riders: The Gautam Gambhir-led side are the reigning IPL champions and with a balanced team, they will be a threat to the rest. The likes of Robin Uthappa and Sunil Narine form the crux of the team. Uthappa was in sensational form in this season's IPL as he won the 'Golden Bat' after piling a series of formidable knocks. Narine remains to be their key bowler as the best of the batsmen look vulnerable against his variation. KKR have two of the most experienced campaigners in Jacques Kallis and Gambhir, and the duo will be expected to guide the youngsters in the team. Last time in 2012 they faltered in the Group stage and this year they look as an unit who can spring in a collective show and could go all the way.
Chennai Super Kings: This is the most seasoned and consistent team since the advent of domestic T20 cricket in India. Under Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the one-time CL T20 champions go in as the favourites to win the competition. They have big stars and are a force to reckon with in every department. Moreover, in-form pair of Faf du Plessis and Suresh Raina adds solidity in the middle and the duo looks dangerous every time they come out to bat. Dhoni will be wanting to grab the trophy this term after missing the last hurdle in both IPL and CL T20 for a couple of seasons now.
Kings XI Punjab: A new look team under the leadership of Aussie skipper George Bailey, Kings XI Punjab were the best team in this season's IPL. Though they lost to KKR in the final, the debutants in this tournament will look to make amends. Glenn Maxwell will be the danger man once again and the likes of David Miller and Mitchell Johnson makes this powerful side a big threat to all the others. Also, the Indian youngsters in the team have presented themselves well and it is a team everybody is looking forward to watching.
Cape Cobras: This is the South African champions' third participation in the CL T20. With some regular internationals in the team, this is a well balanced side. The presence of Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Vernon Philander and Richard Levi makes this team a mighty force. With some genuine all-rounders in the team, the Paul Adams coached side could make the last four alongside Kings XI Punjab. Duminy is the star man of this side and a lot of responsibility will be on his shoulders to steer Cobras into the semis.
Perth Scorchers: The 2013-14 Big Bash winners had a forgettable CL T20 tournament in the last two seasons. With the retirement of former skipper Simon Katich, the responsibility of leading the side came on Adam Voges who looks like an interesting prospect. Scorchers have a solid batting line-up with the likes of Voges, Craig Simmons and Mitchell Marsh. The bowling looks good too and the presence of seasoned campaigners in Brad Hogg and Yasir Arafat will give them much-needed guidance on the sub-continent pitches. Overall, they can challenge the other big teams and if their stars click, they could be serious contenders this time.