Coach Ray Jennings
Coach Ray Jennings

Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Champions League will be a test of character for our improving squad

It’s been slightly over four months since our heartbreaking loss in the Indian Premier League final, and every member of the Royal Challengers, right from the players to the support staff, are looking to make amends in the inaugural Champions League.

Club level and franchise owned cricket will enter a new dimension, with the first ever significant international club tournament, and players from all the top T20 sides will be looking forward to this exciting new challenge.

T20 cricket has grown in stature and prominence over the last three years, with two T20 World Cups, and two highly successful IPL seasons, which has taken cricket to new levels of skill and intensity altogether. Innovations such as the slower bouncer, the paddle sweep, and the outrageous “Dilshan Scoop” may not go down too well with some of the purists, but are now integral facets of 20 over cricket, which some players are successfully implementing in other forms of the game.

IPL 2009 was undoubtedly a marked improvement over Season 1, and to end up as runners-up after four consecutive losses early on, was nothing short of a phenomenal effort. Anil Kumble’s erstwhile leadership and crucial spells towards the end of the league phase went a long way in ensuring our position in the last four. What was truly remarkable was the way in which the youngsters responded to Anil’s leadership, and always put their best foot forward for the team cause.

I was thoroughly impressed with the young Indian players in our squad, such as Manish Pandey, Vinay Kumar and Virat Kohli who put in some consistent performances throughout the competition, and never backed away from any challenge. Roelof Van Der Merwe was also one of our top performers, and his subsequent showing in the T20 World Cup in England, was further evidence of his talent and ability at the highest level.

The Champions League will be as, if not more competitive than the IPL, as the club sides are representing their countries, which will add a bit of needle to the proceedings. In addition, all the other T20 sides in the competition are part of the same first-class teams in their respective countries, who play together throughout the season, as opposed to the IPL teams that only assemble for the duration of one tournament.

Cape Cobras will be one side to watch out for, as their squad is filled with utility players, who are well suited to the T20 format. Sussex Sharks may well be the surprise package, as most of their players are relatively unknown on the international stage, but the county has performed consistently in all forms of cricket in England over the past few years.

As far as Royal Challengers is concerned, we are currently finalizing our squad for the competition, and are looking to include the best players that can perform under pressure. The Champions League will be a test of character for our improving squad, and the team is geared up for the tournament.

Ray Jennings is the former coach of the South African national team and current Head Coach of Royal Challengers Bangalore. He was talking to Dhruv Mullick.

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