Faisalabad 'ready for the big stage'
With their visa trouble firmly behind them Faisalabad Wolves, only the second Pakistan team to participate in the Champions League, are upbeat about their chances in the tournament after two weeks of "thorough" preparation.
"We have been practising since two weeks. For a week we prepared at the local ground in Faisalabad, before moving to the National Cricket Academy in Lahore where we spent another week," said vice-captain Mohammad Salman. "So, we have been thoroughly preparing for this tournament. We were very confident of participating in this tournament."
Faisalabad aren't shy of international experience, with Misbah-ul-Haq and Saeed Ajmal in their ranks, but Salman voiced faith that in the youngsters making a mark as well. Two of them, Asad Ali and Ehsan Adil had made their Pakistan debuts this year.
"Barring Misbah and Ajmal, we mainly have young and upcoming cricketers in our squad," he said. "The teams that we beat at the domestic level had many superstars and still we managed to become the [Pakistan domestic T20] champions. It only shows how much potential our young players have and I am confident they are ready for the big stage."
Their opponents, Otago Volts, are the only team in the qualifiers who are not from the subcontinent and in hopes of minimising the unfamiliarity of overseas conditions, they had undergone training in Sri Lanka.
"We had a preparation camp in Sri Lanka where we got used to the conditions and it was great, especially for the guys who hadn't been in the subcontinent before," their captain Brendon McCullum said. Their coach Vaughn Johnson seconded him by saying, "We played four full matches in Sri Lanka and the guys did a pretty good job of handling the heat and humidity there. We played on some spin-friendly wickets and our batsmen seemed to stand up to the challenges reasonably well."
Otago lost all their matches in their only previous outing in the CLT20, back in 2009, but McCullum was hopeful of an improved showing this time around. The side has nine players with international experience, including Hamish Rutherford, who made 171 on Test debut earlier this year, offspinner Nathan McCullum and Netherlands allrounder Ryan ten Doeschate.
"I think if we're playing outside of Chandigarh, we'll probably be underdogs," McCullum said. "But since here the wicket is slightly faster and bouncier than the normal Indian tracks, we can be confident that we have the right team to exploit the conditions."