The inaugural Champions League Twenty20 gets underway at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium on Thursday with hosts and IPL runners-up Royal Challengers Bangalore taking on Cape Cobras from South Africa. Cricket's first global inter-club tournament, it is the latest twist in a format that is only seven years but has established itself as the game's main money-spinner.
A mix of state, county, regional and franchise teams will battle it out for a US$ 6 million cash prize, with $2.5 million going to the winners. The unpredictability of the format is enhanced by the fact that there is little history between the teams, though many of the players would be familiar to each other as team-mates at some level.
That element of uncertainty was summed up by Herschelle Gibbs, a key player for the Cobras. "We have a good team and a lot of the guys have been around for a while but this is Twenty20 and anything can happen. As I said earlier it is about the team performing well on a given day that wins matches, but I think Royal Challengers will be one of the favourites."
There will certainly be a lot of anticipation in Bangalore, where the game itself is to be preceded by what the organisers claim will be a lavish ceremony featuring legendary Grammy award winner Chaka Khan and British pop star Jamelia. "It has been a while since Royal Challengers have played at home", Anil Kumble, the Bangalore captain, said. "It's almost a year now... more than a year. Everybody is looking forward to that and we will certainly take advantage of home support."
The 23 matches in the 16-day tournament are spread between Bangalore, Delhi and Hyderabad. The 12 teams have been divided into four groups of three each with IPL runners-up Bangalore grouped with Cape Cobras and Otago, while IPL champions Deccan Chargers are in a pool with Stanford 20/20 winners Trinidad and Tobago and the Somerset, runners-up of England's Twenty20 Cup.
Delhi Daredevils are grouped with Victoria, the runners-up in the Australian domestic competition, and the Sri Lanka champions Wayamba. The other group comprises the Australian title-holders New South Wales, South Africa's Eagles and Sussex, winner of England's Twenty20 Cup.
The top two teams will qualify for the second round where two groups of four each will compete in a round-robin league. The top four teams will make it to the semi-finals, which will be played in New Delhi, on October 21, and Hyderabad, on October 22.
Points earned in the group stage will be carried forward into the league stage based on the result of the match played between the two teams that advance from the same pool. The points,
the applicable net run ate and the applicable wickets per balls bowled, from that match only, shall be recorded in the league stage points table. These points will then combine the result of the league stage and the one result carried forward from the group stage. The team with the highest number of points at the end of the league stage will top the table.
Royal Challenger Bangalore v Cape Cobras, Group C
Start time 20.00 (14.30 GMT)
Anil Kumble v Herschelle Gibbs and JP Duminy: Kumble led superbly with the ball in Bangalore's 2009 IPL campaign, taking 21 wickets at 16.52. Back home in his native Bangalore, Kumble knows the Chinnaswamy Stadium very well and will be backed by a buoyant crowd. Kumble will need to be at his craftiest best against the Cobras' most experience hitters.
Charl Langevelt v Jacques Kallis: The former South African team-mates will face off as key figures to their respective sides. After a poor first IPL season, Kallis struck form in 2009 with 361 runs at a strike-rate of 108.73. Langevelt is a famed death-overs specialists and could shape up to be the Cobras' most important player. Bangalore are keen to exploit the home conditions with Kallis already making it clear that knowing the ground will benefit the hosts.
Henry Davids v Bangalore's attack:
Among teams in this competition, Davids owns the second-fastest Twenty20 hundred
- a 41-ball effort for the Cobras against Warriors in Cape Town.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo