Mumbai’s failure one reason to follow Champions League T20

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There’s little under a week remaining before football’s Champions League gets underway, but rather than twiddle your thumbs waiting for kickoff, cricket’s version of the glamorous UEFA tournament is the perfect warm-up act.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Champions League T20 competition has plenty to interest the casual fan and we’ve laid out just three of the many reasons why it’s worth following this year:

There’s a chance the holders won’t qualify

Real Madrid extended their lead as the most successful Champions League side with their 10th title last season and the Mumbai Indians are bat-and-ball’s version.

However, the two-time winners aren’t guaranteed a spot in the tournament proper having only finished fourth in the IPL. They’ve been thrown into the qualifying pool first, as a result.

It’s by no means a given that they escape those waters, with a dangerous-looking Northern Knights side representing New Zealand and the always unpredictable Lahore Lions flying Pakistan’s flag.

South Africa have strong claims to provide their first winner

The 2014 tournament will be the sixth version of the Champions League and so far teams from either India or Australia have claimed the trophy.

This year though South Africa’s representative, the 6/1-rated Cape Cobras, should carry real confidence of going one step better than their compatriot Warriors and Highveld Lions – who have both been beaten CL finalists.

With a squad of at least eight international players past or present to call on, including Hashim Amla, J P Duminy and Vernon Philander, the Cobras are well worth a flutter.

Some disloyal stars will have to face their domestic teams

Eight players arrive at the tournament having been selected by both their domestic sides and their IPL franchise. In that situation it’s down to the player to choose who he represents.

None of the eight chose to play for their home club, meaning there could be some choice words for Corey Anderson, Kieron Pollard, George Bailey, Jacques Kallis, David Miller, Lasith Malinga, Pat Cummins and Dwayne Smith should they walk to the middle against their one-time teammates.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.