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Prajakta Pawar in Johannesburg

Sixers are well-balanced for SA conditions: Bhogle

Cricket expert also feels DD is the team to watch out for

The Karbonn Champions League Twenty20 2012 began in South Africa on October 13 at Centurion with the home team, the Titans, winning in front of a packed stadium. The next day the other local team, the Highveld Lions, followed suit; playing on their home turf, they beat the Mumbai Indians. Earlier the same evening, making most of the conditions; the Sydney Sixers defeated the Chennai Super Kings.

With the tournament just starting to take shape we sat down with cricket expert Harsha Bhogle to analyse the prospects of the teams from South Africa – the Titans and the Highveld Lions – and the Australian sides – the Sydney Sixers and the Perth Scorchers as the tournament progresses.

After examining and evaluating the strengths and the weakness of these teams he said that the Sydney Sixers are the most well-balanced side in these conditions and he picked the Delhi Daredevils as the team to watch out in the ongoing tournament.

Excerpts from the conversation with Bhogle:

The Sydney Sixers, winners of Australia’s Big Bash League: I actually believe that the Sydney Sixers have the most balanced team in the tournament for the conditions on offer in South Africa. When you play in India, you want your back-up bowlers to be slow bowlers. When you play here, you want your back-up bowlers to be seamers. They have three outstanding young prospects in Josh Hazelwood, Mitchell Starc and in Pat Cummins. Their fourth seamer is Shane Watson is good enough to be a third seamer for any side in the world. They also have got Moises Henriques who can be quite sharp, and he is their fifth bowler. Hence, they are well stocked in the bowling department.

You could have the odd question mark about their batting. But with Watson in the kind of form that he is in and with Brad Haddin who has just come in form in addition to Henriques who is in such great form they can bat well. And like any Australian side they field very well.

If you had to look for a chink in their armour, it could be in their batting but for that the opposition needs to take wickets early. Maybe they are reliant on Watson; but I see them as an outstandingly well-rounded side in these conditions.

The Titans, winners of the MiWay T20 Challenge:
They are the other South African side; I was very impressed by them. Because, if you look at a franchise like the Titans and if you take away from the side Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel and Faf du Plessis, you have a team that, without these three key players, takes on the Perth Scorchers and makes it look like a one-sided game. It tells you about the kind of depth that is there in that side.

When I looked at the side, I was wondering who will win them the game. But they just kept going. They batted very well and they also showed that they had enough bowling. They have the bowlers who came in and hit the deck hard like the bowler like Ethy Mbhalati. So, there are a few players in this team who can bowl well. We know Alfonso Thomas, he is an outstanding T20 cricketer all around the world, but you suddenly see all the others. Also, there is Cornelius de Villers. Most people may not remember this, I was probably doing commentary for that game, he bowled the super over when he was playing for the Eastern Province Franchise and took two wickets in the first two balls and that was the end of the super over. So, we know that people like de Villiers can play. They may not be huge strengths to a side when they come and play on slow sub-continent pitches, but under these conditions they suddenly become different.

The Perth Scorchers, runners-up in Australia’s Big Bash League: I was disappointed with the way the Scorchers went. I was following some of their scores and one of the reasons that they made it to the final of the Big Bash was because Herschelle Gibbs was giving them great starts. They would have expected that from him. But I got a feeling that there wasn’t that much in their bowling. There wasn’t a lot of depth in batting. But they could still come and play very well. They have got a decent spin attack. Brad Hogg at this level is still a fine bowler especially in these conditions. They really need a dominant batsman up front somewhere. And if Gibbs doesn’t do that [give them the starts and score runs], then I think they are struggling a little bit.

Highveld Lions, runners-up of the MiWay T20 Challenge: Mumbai Indians will know the Highveld Lions really well, because in CLT20 2010 in South Africa, also on this very ground at the Wanderers, the Mumbai Indians came in with all their might and the Highveld Lions just turned up. [Everyone was wondering] who were the Highveld Lions? And suddenly we discovered there is Jonathan Vandiar, who is playing very well. He has now moved franchises and is not with the Lions anymore. Alviro Pietersen and Neil McKenzie did very well. He played a good innings. They had bowlers like Ethan O’Reilly and players we didn’t know about; but they were players who knew exactly how to bowl in these conditions. And that’s what we are looking for in the Highveld Lions. There are no big names. Gulam Bodi will bat a little bit, the spinner Aaron Phangiso [will bowl well]. These are names that are not known outside South Africa but they play day in and day out in these conditions. It is like suddenly playing against the Rajasthan Royals who will be a very good side in Jaipur.

The Lions are in a very tough group. They will have to play against the Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings and Sydney Sixers. I think they would struggle to make the grade but they could cause an upset.

Although the results have swung in favour of the local teams and sides that are more familiar to the conditions like the Australians, the Delhi Daredevils beat the Kolkata Knight Riders with clinical precision.

Harsha’s picks: After being coaxed to pick a side, Bhogle said, “In these conditions, I feel that if the Delhi Daredevils bowl well; they get a good start if Morne Morkel can lead the Daredevils well and if Umesh Yadav is in some kind of form, and Irfan Pathan is swinging the ball and they are using him well. Mahela Jayawardene used him well against the Kolkata Knight Riders. DD might just be a side to watch out for. When people look at India they look at Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, I don’t think they look as carefully at the Delhi Daredevils. But in these conditions they might be a good side.”

The Daredevils are the only team from the Indian Premier League to register a win in the tournament so far.  

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