NSW look to Hughes and Warner for success
Matthew Mott, the New South Wales coach, believes the key to a strong charge at the Champions League Twenty20 depends on his two fresh-faced opening batsmen. While the Blues have a talent-heavy bowling line-up for the lucrative tournament, including Brett Lee and Stuart Clark, Mott wants Phillip Hughes and David Warner, two of his youngest men, to ignite the team.
The left-handers, who remain in Australia's international plans, will be called on for explosive starts during the competition, which begins in Delhi on October 9. "The key to our success is our opening batting combination," Mott said. "That's the thing that can set up your game. As a bowling side you want to take three wickets in the first six overs, as the batting team you want to set the foundation. If we can start well with the bat we'll have a good chance of competing in the tournament."
Warner, 22, is a tiny but powerful hitter who is trying to shake off a reputation as a Twenty20 specialist while Hughes, 20, has played only Tests for Australia. Neither man has secured a long-term spot in the national set-up and they can enhance their short-form credentials in India.
The pair worked well during the Blues' warm-up games in Lismore over the past week and Mott was impressed with the combination. "Hughes and Warner just seem to be a really good mix, they both play a bit differently," he said. "At different stages either of them have stepped up the tempo and the other one has taken a back seat. They've had a very mature approach."
New South Wales, Australia's domestic Twenty20 champions, leave for India on Friday and will be without the injured Nathan Bracken (knee), Michael Clarke (back) and Brad Haddin (finger). However, they still have an envious squad thanks to the internationals Lee, Clark, Simon Katich, Nathan Hauritz and Doug Bollinger.
"It's a big buzz for all of our guys," Mott said of the big names returning. "We're used to having the players come in and out and it's always great when they come back and share their experience with the rest of the squad. In this competition everyone is excited, whether they've played a lot of international cricket or not."
Mott has significant coaching experience in Twenty20 after being an assistant for two years in the IPL with the Kolkata Knight Riders. The side finished last earlier in the year, resulting in a major coaching overhaul, and Mott has learned some lessons.
"It's really just about getting off to a good start," he said. "It's such a tough format that if you get on the back foot it's really hard to recover quickly. That's the thing I'll be trying to impress on the guys, we have to switch on from the first ball of the tournament. You can't afford a bad couple of overs in Twenty20."
New South Wales and Victoria fine-tuned in Lismore and the teams will face each other again in another warm-up in India next week. Both sides play on the second day of the tournament, with the Blues running into the Eagles and the Bushrangers up against the Delhi Daredevils.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo