Champions League Twenty20 2009

Knowing conditions will benefit us - Kallis

Jamie Alter in Bangalore

October 6, 2009

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Roelof van der Merwe goes on the attack, Royal Challengers Bangalore v Deccan Chargers, IPL, final, Johannesburg, May 24, 2009
Jacques Kallis: "Most of the sides are in the same boat [as far as a lack of preparation], except players in England who have been playing cricket lately" © Associated Press
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Jacques Kallis' first IPL stint in Bangalore didn't go too well, but on his return to the city as part of the second season's runner-ups, he was confident of giving home fans plenty to cheer for. Since losing to Deccan Chargers in a close final this year, Royal Challengers Bangalore regrouped ahead of their Champions League Twenty20 opener on October 8 and Kallis was confident of repeating their success in India.

"Most of the sides are in the same boat [as far as a lack of preparation], except players in England, who have been playing cricket lately. But I think we have had good net practices and practice matches. I don't think it will be an issue."

Bangalore finished second from last in the inaugural IPL in 2008, but surprised many by making the 2009 final. After managing just 199 runs in 11 matches in the first season, Kallis had a good 2009, scoring 361 runs at a strike-rate of 108.73 and pouching six wickets. He said the experience of playing here in 2008 put Bangalore at an advantage over fellow Group C participants Otago and Cape Cobras.

"Experience will play a role, and everyone knows how important allrounders are in Twenty20 cricket. I hope I can contribute both with the bat and ball. The other sides [Otago, Cobras] have not played in Indian conditions so it will obviously be an advantage. We have to make sure that we capitalise on this aspect.

"I have enjoyed playing in these conditions and it feels good to be back in Bangalore. The home crowd support will play a role and we obviously know the ground, so I think it will be to our advantage."

Another allrounder, one much younger and less experienced than Kallis, will play for the first time in India. In a short international career Roelof van der Merwe has earned a reputation as a successful, frugal left-arm spinner and he believed the slow bowlers were vital to this format. "Spin has an important role to play in Twenty20 and since the batsmen are always looking to score off you there is a good chance of picking more wickets if you keep a good line," he said. "During the second edition of the IPL, we have seen the role spinners can play, especially in the second half of a game. Indian pitches tend to assist spinners, so the role of tweakers will be far more important in the Champions League."

van der Merwe has yet to bowl in India but is looking forward to the surfaces. "They will suit my kind of bowling. There will be a bit of spin as the game goes on, making it a bit tough for the batsmen to score off you. But the smallish nature of grounds [as they bring the boundaries in] here does not allow any margin for error for bowlers, so that's going to be a challenge to adapt to the conditions pretty quickly."

His lead slow-bowling partner in the 2009 IPL was someone who knows a thing or two about spinning it in the subcontinent, and van der Merwe was glad to feed off an Indian legend. "Anil Kumble is a great spinner and a very good thinker of the game," he said. "It has been my privilege to interact with him and learn the nuances of spin bowling. The way he approaches a match, the way he plans for each rival batsmen...watching him itself is a study class."

Another key aspect to van der Merwe's game is fielding off his own bowling. "I have been working on it for a while now and as a spinner fielding and catching off your bowling is very important. My natural aggressive streak also adds to it."

Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

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Jamie Alter Senior sub-editor While teachers in high school droned on about Fukuyama and communism, young Jamie's mind tended to wander to Old Trafford and the MCG. Subsequently, having spent six years in the States - studying Political Science, then working for an insurance company - and having failed miserably at winning any cricket converts, he moved back to India. No such problem in Bangalore, where he can endlessly pontificate on a chinaman who turned it around with a flipper, and why Ricky Ponting is such a good hooker. These days he divides his time between playing office cricket and constant replenishments at one of the city's many pubs.
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