Tomorrow marks the start of the 2010 Champions League 20Twenty competition, in which my beloved South Australian Redbacks are one of the two teams representing Australia in what I've always thought of as our national game, cricket. Sure, it's not real cricket, it's a cut-down version designed for the modern sports fan, dancing girls and rock music and all, but it's still a big deal for South Australian cricket, as the Redbacks haven't won anything since I was in primary school. Not that they're likely to win this or anything, but there's always an outside chance, so I'll probably be having a few late nights watching the action in South Africa in the coming couple of weeks.
In case you're one of those crazy people that don't follow cricket, the Champions League is like the Champions League of Association Football (soccer), where the winning teams from the domestic competitions around the world in the previous year face off for glory, honour and national pride, and a nice paycheck to boot. Unlike soccer, though, cricket is not played at a high level in all that many countries, and not all of them are competing this year, so this year the league is made up of three Indian teams, two Australian and South African teams, and one team apiece from New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the West Indies, leading some to suggest that it's not a very big deal, but if SA has a chance of winning then I can't help but be supportive. How very biased I am.
Since the chances are that you're not a supporter of any of the other teams in the competition, you should tune in on TV (if it's available in your country) and support the SA Redbacks. Why? Well, aside from them having the most dashing and gallant fans around and having pretty swishy bright red uniforms, they really deserve a break. If you're a cricket fan, you're sure to be impressed by the quality of this tournament, which features lots of big-name players from around the world as well as a bunch of exciting rising stars, and if you're not you might just be by the end of the tournament, as your new favourite sporty types in the fancy red shirts play some of the most exciting and interesting cricket you're ever likely to see.
For those that aren't swayed by such emotional appeals, here's some pros and cons on SA's chances:
A rose-tinted view of why the Redbacks can win:- Some of Australia's best and most experienced domestic batsmen, consistently high-scoring and exciting but underrated players like Mike Klinger, Graham Manou, Tom Cooper and Callum Ferguson.
- Brutal terrorist of a pace bowler Shaun Tait is probably the scariest thing a batsman can ever face.
- Brilliant fielding side including the simply incredibly glovework of Manou behind the stumps.
- Australian teams tend to stack up extremely favourably against foreign teams, our domestic competition probably has the best home-grown quality in the world.
Why we probably won't:
- Lack of an actual budget has prevented SA from hiring any big-name international talent, while almost every other side is rolling in it. The best we can claim is Tait and Ferguson, who have played for Australia in and amongst injury, and Cooper, who is a staple of the Netherlands team by virtue of his mothers country of origin.
- Loss of the imports that got us into the competition in the first place, Shaid Afridi, who is currently busy retiring again, and Kieran Pollard, who'll be playing AGAINST for the Indian team with the big bucks.
- Not enough bowling depth. Tait and Bailey are top-class, but the rest of our bowlers are relitive unknowns and pretty unpredictable. Not to rule them out, but we're going to miss Afridi's excellent run-supressing bowling from last season.
Hrmm...maybe not so promising after all, huh?
You should get behind them anyway, because the Aussie underdog is always a good bet, and because I asked so nicely. Their first game is this Sunday night. I'll be watching and you should to.