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October 8, 2012
Ask for an abiding memory of Sri Lankan sides at previous Champions League T20s and you are likely to get a blank stare for an answer. The raw truth is that both Wayamba and Ruhuna had team songs livelier than either of them were on the field and they failed to make a major impression on the competition.
The former have won two matches in their six games at the tournament across two events and the latter failed to get past the preliminary round last year*. This edition of the competition sees a third Sri Lankan side participate, Uva Next, and they promise things will be different.
In fact, some of those things already are. Uva emerged champions of Sri Lanka's first franchise competition, the SLPL, a league formed as a mini-me of the IPL. Apart from giving the country a glitzier stage on which to play their 20-over competition, it also brought in cash and with that was the ability to lure superstar players from other countries. It's those players who Uva hope will help them improve their lot at the CLT20.
"We have been playing a lot of domestic tournaments but without foreigners. This is the first time we've had foreign players in our league and it's a very good idea," Thilina Kandamby, the Uva captain, said. "We had Shoaib Malik in our side and it was very nice. We were able to share a lot of thoughts with them. I learnt a lot from them when we were playing the SLPL. I think having foreign players is the way forward."
While heavyweight internationals often steal the spotlight and hog the headlines, Dave Nosworthy, the former coach of South African side Lions, who is consulting for Uva at this tournament, said the players that have been involved with the team are anything but attention seekers. Uva have five foreigners in Jacob Oram, Andrew McDonald, Umar Gul, Fawad Alam and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
"The internationals we have are such good guys," he said. "Sometimes, you can get some guys who are arrogant and ego driven but we don't have that here. They are also learning the Sri Lankan way and having them involved helps develop local players. Because everyone is learning from everyone, the game is moving forward."
One of Uva's foreigners whose knowledge is often sought out is Chanderpaul. The West Indian is not known for his flashiness but brings other important elements to 20-over cricket. "He might not be a Chris Gayle but he is really experienced and works the ball around. In South Africa, the way he uses the pace will also important," Nosworthy said. "We are relying a lot on him."
Chanderpaul is also one of Kandamby's assistants, especially important because the pace of 20-over cricket means the captain cannot be in charge of everything. "Level headedness and calmness under pressure is very important because in T20 cricket, the emotions can run high," Nosworthy said. "If the captain is busy with field placings or bowling changes, it's important to have someone on the field who can help other players. Having an international player around to touch here and there what the captain doesn't get to is very good for us."
Even though Nosworthy admits that Uva will depend on the internationals he said they will also need their "local players to step up to the plate," if they are to improve on Sri Lanka's record in the tournament. Uva only have two matches to do it in. "It would have been nice if we had another couple of games but we knew this was the situation," Kandamby admitted. "Guys know what we have to do."
October 8, 1500GMT: This story was amended to correct Wayamba record
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