Fielding the key against Warriors - Klinger
The South Australia Redbacks were undecided on whether to have today's media briefing in the lobby of the team hotel or in its business lounge. The lobby was an option if just one or two reporters arrived, having braved the train, bus, autorickshaw and civic strikes going on in Hyderabad over the demand for a separate state of Telangana. As it turned out, about seven or eight journalists were awaiting for what captain Michael Klinger had to say ahead of South Australia's opening game against Warriors from South Africa.
Having watched Warriors win a last-ball thriller yesterday against Royal Challengers Bangalore, Klinger knew what his side were up against. "Warriors are a very well-drilled unit and they have got a lot of good individuals," he said. "They out-fielded Royal Challengers; that was the difference in the end. We have got to make sure that our fielding is right up there."
The dry weather in Hyderabad has allowed South Australia to train without worry since they arrived from wet Kolkata and they have put the time to good use. "We have had two-three net sessions and a practice game yesterday. So preparation-wise we could not have done anything more. We are ready to go now."
The two sides met in the semi-finals of the 2010 edition of the Champions League Twenty20 when South Australia were rocked by the left-arm seam of Lonwabo Tsotsobe to lose tamely. They have tried to prepare against that angle this time, getting one of their left-armers to play against them in the practice game.
Such thoroughness under new coach Darren Berry brought South Australia a title after 15 barren years, when they won the KFC Big Bash tournament in February. Klinger said Berry had come in and made a difference right away. "We are a well-drilled and well-coached side. We have had some success in winning the Big Bash and that has given some hope to the squad. Berry is very structured in the way he coaches and the players have responded to that well."
The team has also answered well to Klinger's captaincy, especially in the shortest format, after he shifted to South Australia from Victoria in 2008-09, a move that has "been sort of a new lease of life" for him.
Klinger was on the fringes of the Victoria side for almost a decade before the change of teams turned around his career as a batsman, with the increased responsibility as a leader spurring him on.
"When I moved to the Redbacks, we had a pretty young squad. Being a senior player has helped in terms of my leadership. I also knew that I had to stand up and perform as soon as possible to help the team get positive results. Plus, it's also been about getting the opportunities. Earlier at Victoria I was in and out of the side depending on guys playing for Australia or not."
During his side's run to the semi-finals last year, Klinger cut a calm figure on the field amid the frenzy of the Twenty20 format. It was a conscious effort to try and appear in control. "I think it is something a captain needs to bring. If he starts to get too emotional then the rest of the team will follow. So I try to be as calm as possible on the outside but it does not always mean I am calm on the inside.
"In T20 cricket, you have to make split-second decisions. I think the most important thing is to be in constant communication with your bowlers as the field needs to change depending on what they are going to bowl. That's something I try and do as often as possible as it gives them more confidence as well."
South Australia's performance in 2010 was largely unexpected but it has brought increased hope this time. "Last year, we probably went under the radar a little bit. Teams didn't expect us to go that far but we have got a side that plays well together and guys that play their roles well individually. If we can do that again, there is no reason why we cannot get to the final stages again.
"It is a tough competition among the best teams in the world. I don't think there is any easy game in both groups. Every game can go either way as we saw last night, so we have to make sure we are switched on every game."
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo