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The conditions in South Africa as well as the teams' varying preparations have leveled the field in the Champions League T20a
October 17, 2012
After seven matches of this year's Champions League T20, an IPL team has only won once, and that was against another IPL team. The defending champions Mumbai Indians, the current IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders and the most successful franchise Chennai Super Kings haven't earned a point. Only Delhi Daredevils have had a victory, making it four losses out of five matches for the IPL.
The IPL sides are expected to win more often than not in the Champions League because of the superstars in their squads, and so the early results are surprising.
The immediate thought will be that the bounce of South African pitches is a problem for the mostly subcontinental batting line-ups, and to some degree that would be correct. However, the IPL teams haven't won also because of a lack of preparation, both physically and tactically, and because their heavyweights haven't delivered, especially when compared to the performances of some of the lesser-known players.
The Wanderers and Centurion have both had pitches that may be considered a little too spicy for Twenty20s. Titans fast bowler CJ de Villiers picked up wickets against Perth Scorchers in Centurion, because his height gave him more bounce than anyone else. Delhi's pace attack, which served them so well at home in the IPL, was also effective there. Mitchell Starc did the same against Chennai at the Wanderers, displaying exemplary control on a helpful surface.
From the qualifying rounds, the batsmen have struggled to time the ball and have been surprised by the pace at which it arrives on them. Only Auckland Aces's line-up has looked confident when playing shots, an outcome of a month's preparation in South Africa.
Auckland arrived on September 22 and, when compared to them, their competition looked underprepared. They beat an IPL side, and not entirely because of the conditions. Auckland's win over Kolkata was a result of a spirited performance from the whole unit and the big-match temperament of Azhar Mahmood, who for the second time in the competition starred with both bat and ball.
Unlike the two up-country stadiums, Newlands in Cape Town does not have a reputation for assisting the quicks. Pitches there are generally good cricket wickets and that's what they have been so far. On the day Auckland played Kolkata, the weather in Cape Town was closer to a New Zealand summer's day than even a South African one, and pretty far away from the heat of India.
On a more summery afternoon, it was Chennai's turn to be outplayed, again. A feisty Lions side won the match because of their left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso and slow starter Gulam Bodi. Although the experience of Neil McKenzie was on hand, the youngsters Jean Symes and Chris Morris finished the chase.
Chennai were simply not up to the mark. Their team selection may have flawed as they opted for the local lad Albie Morkel, though he is native to Centurion not Cape Town, instead of Nuwan Kulasekera. Their tactics were also questionable: R Ashwin was bowled out despite being expensive, while the more economical Ravindra Jadeja had an over left. Dhoni had also seemed to miscalculate his bowlers' rotation in the first match, against Sydney Sixers, when Ben Hilfenhaus only bowled three overs but Faf du Plessis and Ashwin had their full quotas.
Strategy was a problem for Mumbai as well. They promoted their only left-hander, fast bowler Mitchell Johnson, to target Phangiso in Johannesburg, but he found batting tough on tricky pitch and admitted as much. Kolkata also threw in a tactic that did not work. They left out Brett Lee at Newlands in favour of Shakib Al Hasan, who disappointed with both bat and ball.
Titans' allrounder Roelof van der Merwe said the conditions in South Africa make for a "far more even contest." That statement could apply to the duel between bat and ball, and the one between the IPL teams and the rest.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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