India, Oct. 13 -- The competitive phase of the Champions League gets underway from today and two Indian teams will cross swords. In fact, Kolkata Knight Riders beat the Delhi Daredevils in the IPL semifinal at Pune to get to the final. The difference since then is the surface they will play on. It's the start of the season in South Africa and there is a tinge of green on the 22 yards. It's evident that the seamers are going to have a good time hitting the deck hard. The spinners will be tested and will need to use their guile to dominate the batters. The stroke players will be delighted as the ball will come on and they will get value for shots.
The first game of a tournament is important for any side and in this case the toss will be crucial. If one has kept an eye on the qualifiers, the thought process of the captains is clear - win the toss and put the opposition in on a seaming track to make quick inroads.
Hence, the openers of Knight Riders and Daredevils are crucial and the teams will look to them for a good start. Virender Sehwag has stepped down from captaincy and will focus on his batting.
Both Viru and Gautam Gambhir have not been in the best of form and they will need to provide that sparkling start. They are quality players, have been in the business for a long time and also know that they will be tested in these conditions.
Gautam's technique as an opener in overseas conditions has come under the scanner and this will provide him an opportunity to change the critics' opinion.
The seam bowlers of the Daredevils look a step ahead in these conditions. Irfan Pathan will swing the new ball and get assistance from the pitches. Morne Morkel and Umesh Yadav will generate pace.
KKR have the experienced Brett Lee, L Balaji and Jacques Kallis in their squad along with the young Pradeep Sangwan, but the side has a lot of spinners and it will be important to see how Gautam uses them in these conditions.
As for batting, the Daredevils have the riches to choose from. Sehwag, Unmukt Chand, David Warner, Kevin Pietersen, Mahela Jayawardene, Ross Taylor and you still have Naman Ojha and Irfan Pathan to swing the bat around. For KKR, it's going to be a crucial tournament for Yusuf Pathan. He can revive his career if he goes out with his guns blazing but will need to adjust in these seaming conditions. They will also need Gautam, Kallis and McCullum to be on the high.
The writer is a former India captain
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Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.