The inaugural Twenty20 Champions League has finally arrived and it is easy to think that the Indian Premier League outfits will be the superior teams. They have home advantage, have just finished a domestic season and, most importantly, have the strongest squads.
They are packed full of international players from around the world, many of whom have just finished an elite tournament in the Champions Trophy. It seems they have too much strength in depth for the teams from Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies.
However, Deccan Chargers, Bangalore Royal Challengers and Delhi Daredevils might not have things all their own way. The all-star nature of their squads is their weakness as well as their strength: they have had little time to practice as a unit and are sure to be under-prepared.
This might be costly in a format of four groups of three – four teams will be eliminated after playing only two matches. A good start is crucial and not necessarily easy against well-drilled teams used to playing together.
IPL champions Deccan Chargers will again be tough to beat, as they have two box office players in Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds and are not restricted by injuries as much as the Royal Challengers and Daredevils.
In looking for value from the other entrants, it is hard to give Somerset, Sussex, Otago, Eagles or Trinidad and Tobago much of a chance. They are short on international class and will struggle in the conditions.
New South Wales Blues and Victorian Bushrangers have plenty of in-form Australian stars in their ranks, with the Blues most likely to reach the latter stages and prove why they were domestic T20 champions. Cape Cobras will miss Graeme Smith but are a good bet to reach the semi finals.
The best value might lay with Wayamba, the Sri Lankan entrants. They are outsiders but have players active domestically and a nucleus of international performers, including Ajantha Mendis and Mahela Jayawardene. If they knock out one of Delhi or Victoria in the first round, they could go far.