Ready or not, the Champions League launches at the Bullring tonight — Lions v Mumbai 5?pm SS2

2010-09-10 00:00

THE term David against Goliath has been thrown around with far too much regularity on these pages of late, but tonight will see a similarly lopsided affair take place at the Wanderers.

The Champions League T20 has snuck up on us with a sneaky stealth, but perhaps this weekend’s first few matches will spark the nation’s imagination.

With a seemingly endless feast of live sport on our shores over the last two years, the Champions League has been met with a quiet reluctance in some parts.

Not at the Bullring, though. Tonight’s opener between the fancied and star-studded Mumbai Indians and the Highveld Lions will set the event on its way to a, hopefully, run- and fun-filled two-and-a-bit weeks.

The Mumbai side have the power of Kieron Pollard and the panache of JP Duminy to call on, not to mention the small matter of the little master himself, Sachin Tendulkar.

The great man has shunned T20 cricket on the international stage, but has led his native Mumbai mob with great pride.

“Having played for such a long time, I am playing in South Africa at this time of the year for the first time,” he said ahead of the match.

Indeed, the conditions — especially under lights — could cause a flutter to those IPL sorts used to the benign pitches of India.

But, certainly, the Indians have plenty of experience in their lot, and it is up to the Lions to cause the same sort of upset that got them to such a stage in the first place.

With only Neil McKenzie, Vaughn van Jaarsveld and skipper Alviro Pietersen counting as “household” names, the rest of the Lions are made up of young men highly motivated to make their mark — and perhaps change their careers — with a good showing over the next few matches.

The Lions go in as the home team, but the vast majority of the 30 000 crammed into the Bullring tonight will have their sights firmly set on Tendulkar, Dwayne Bravo and the combative Harbhajan Singh.

“It’s a big game for us, and we know that they are more experienced than we are,” Pietersen said.

“But I think the pressure is on them — everyone expects them to win, but we can play our natural game and hopefully go away with the points.”

If the Lions do start well, it could spark a run to the play-offs, where any­thing can happen. Last year’s inaugural Champions League edition saw Trinidad and Tobago emerge as the surprise package with a run to the final.

Tonight the Lions will look to embark on a similar run.

There will be no vuvuzelas in attendance, but all and sundry will be hoping that the lack of a herd of constipated elephants is replaced by a furious flurry of boundaries.

Ready or not, the hit and gigglers are here.

Don’t forget your makaraba.

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