Champions League T20 qualifiers to begin on Monday
Hyderabad: Some of the world`s best Twenty20 players would be seen in action at the Champions League Twenty20 cricket tournament which gets underway with the qualifying round on Monday.
Sri Lanka`s Ruhunu Eleven, Trinidad and Tobago from the Caribbean, Kiwi side Auckland Aces, India`s Kolkata Knight Riders and England`s Leicestershire and Somerset would fight it out in the CLT20 qualifiers for three spots in the main tournament which begins in Bangalore on September 23.
In the first match of the qualifiers Ruhunu Eleven will take on Trinidad and Tobago, while the second game will be played between Kolkata Knight Riders and Auckland Aces at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.
Ruhunu is banking heavily on its powerful battingdepartment led by hard-hitting Sanath Jayasuriya to book its place in the main draw of the high-profile tournament, which will be played across three Indian cities -- Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata.
"Our strong point is batting. We are lucky to have Jayasuriya in our side. He is such a great player and has so much experience. He will surely provide us with some ideas," Ruhunu skipper Mahela Udawatta said ahead of his team`s opening match.
But what remains a concern for the Sri Lankan side is its bowling department and coach Sumithra Warnakulasuriya candidly admitted the fact.
Ruhunu`s task is easier said than done as in Trinidad and Tobago they face a highly-motivated side which reached the semi-finals in tournament in 2009.
Though they have lost big-hitting Kieron Pollard to Mumbai Indians, the Caribbean side is determined to move on. "If we can go one step further to what we did in 2009, it would be a great feeling. This is a big stage and we will play as a national team. It is important for us to recognise that and try to give our best," Trinidad and Tobago captain Darren Ganga said.
With the likes of skipper Ganga, his brother Sherwin Ganga, Adrian Barath, Denesh Ramdin and Lendl Simmons up its armoury, the Trinidad and Tobabgo outfit has a good mixture of youth and experience.
However, Monday`s second match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Auckland Aces hold more significance from the point of view of local interest and is expected to attract a sizable turn out.
But in the run up to the tournament the Knight Riders received a huge setback in the form of captain Gautam Gambhir, who has been ruled out of the qualifiers after suffering a concussion when he hurt his head while attempting a catch during the England-India Test series.
To add to Knight Riders` problems, Gambhir, who did not feature in the ODI series in England due to the injury, is also uncertain for the main tournament if the Kolkata outfit progresses.
But Gambhir`s absence, notwithstanding, the Knight Riders still hold an edge over Auckland.
On paper, the Kolkata outfit look far more superior and stronger than the Kiwi side as it boasts of quality international cricketers like Eoin Morgan, Jacques Kallis, who has been named captain in place of Gambhir, Brett Lee, Yusuf Pathan, Manoj Tiwary and Laxmipathy Balaji.
On the other hand, the Auckland Aces too has some international flavour in captain Gareth Hopkins, Martin Guptill, Chris Martin, Daryl Tuffey and Kyle Mills.
A total of 13 teams will compete in the main draw of the multi-million dollar tournament which will conclude in Chennai on October 9.