IPL heavyweights Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings knocked out

NORMAN DA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:54 AM ET

Defending champion Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings were expected to battle it out in the final of the Champions League Twenty20 tournament on Sunday. But both will be boarding the flight home to India from South Africa after failing to reach the semifinals. The early departure of these Indian Premier League giants comes as a major surprise but proves the rest of the world is catching up with the Indian teams in this version of the game.

Four IPL teams qualified for this tournament that showcases 10 of the best teams in the world and it appears Virender Sehwag's Delhi Daredevils will be the only Indian club to motor into the semis that begin on Thursday. Kolkata Knight Riders was the other Indian team to bow out early.

"With so many good players and so many good competitions around the world, when you get the best teams together, you've got to expect some good cricket,'' said Australian fast bowler Ben Hilfenhaus, who plays for Chennai.

"It doesn't matter where those teams come from. I don't think there's any extra pressure on IPL teams. It is 20-overs cricket, and results don't necessarily go to the favourite team.''

The only other explanation for the failure of the multi-talented Indian clubs is that the batsmen had their problems adapting to South African pitches. But that is a poor excuse, as the wickets in South Africa were first-class.

In group matches Monday, Chennai finished on a high note by topping England's Yorkshire by four wickets, while Sydney Sixers kept its unbeaten streak intact by thrashing winless Mumbai by 12 runs.

AUSSIES HONOUR SACHIN

There is obviously no diplomatic tool in sport more powerful than cricket, just ask Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Gillard, who is visiting India on a mission to boost trade between the two countries, surprised her hosts by making India's iconic batsman Sachin Tendulkar an honorary member of the Order of Australia. "Cricket is, of course, a great bond between Australia and India. We are both cricket-mad nations. I'm very pleased to confer on Sachin Tendulkar membership of the Order of Australia.''

She added it was a very special honour since "it is very rarely awarded to someone who is not an Australian citizen or an Australian national.'' Only three other non-Australian sportsmen honoured are West Indies greats Clive Lloyd, Gary Sobers and Brian Lara.

Most Aussie cricketers, with the exception of former opening batsman Matthew Hayden, welcomed the news.

"I am not so sure,'' Hayden told Triple M Sydney's The Rush Hour. "There are things that are sacred within our country and should remain exclusive for Australian citizens.

"If Sachin was living in Australia, then gee, why not give him the Prime Minister gong,'' he added sarcastically.

PAKISTAN PUT ON HOLD

India is making its arch-rival Pakistan sweat over its much-anticipated two-week tour in the last week of December. India was to confirm the schedule with its counterparts a week ago, but Pakistan is still waiting. Hopefully this tour does not backfire on Pakistan, since it had cancelled its visit to Zimbabwe scheduled at the same time.

No Test-playing nation has toured Pakistan since 2009 following a deadly terrorist attack on a bus carrying Sri Lanka's national team in Lahore, and Pakistan has since desperately tried to woo back the top countries with little success.

On the weekend some 40,000 Pakistani fans, starved of top-flight cricket at home, jam-packed Karachi's National Stadium for two exhibition matches involving a team of former internationals led by Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya and a Pakistan team led by Shahid Afridi. Pakistani authorities took no chances and security was tight with some 5,000 policemen and para-military staff cordoning off the stadium. Pakistan won both matches handily.

Since the boycott Pakistan has played all of its home fixtures in Dubai but that has not deterred the national team from reaching the semifinals of the two previous world championships. The only losers have been the fans ... All-rounder Abdur Razzaq was fined $1,000 for criticizing skipper Mohammad Hafeez after he was dropped for the World Twenty20 semi versus Sri Lanka. Razzaq personally apologized to Hafeez and the matter has been resolved.

PIETERSEN INCLUDED

First, the apology. Then it was face-to-face meetings between the self-centred Kevin Pietersen and England brass. And, as one expected even before these "reintegration" talks, the batsman has been included by England for the tour of India. He originally was dropped earlier this year after backstabbing his captain and coach during the series versus South Africa that eventually led to his exclusion from England's World Twenty20 campaign.

"The meetings were constructive and cordial and all outstanding issues have been resolved,'' Hugh Morris, England cricket board's head honcho, said. "All the England players and management are now keen to draw a line under this matter and fully focus on the cricketing challenge that lies ahead in India.'' Can't wait for the next headline: Pietersen blows his top.

BOND ... SHANE BOND

New Zealand will have a new bowling coach when it tours New Zealand at the end of this month. Shane Bond, who was possibly the country's finest speed merchant, takes over from Damien Wright. The 37-year-old Bond faces a tough task against the World Cup and World Twenty20 runners-up during the long tour that will involve five ODIs, two Tests and a one-off Twenty20 ... Martin Guptill ran away with four awards at the country's annual awards dinner, including the top prize -- the Sir Richard Hadlee medal. The hard-hitting Kiwi opener hammered a century and had five half-centuries in five consecutive ODIs ... Sri Lanka, meanwhile, is hoping its star spinner Ajantha Mendis will be fit to face the Kiwis. Mendis, who was the top wicket-taker with 15 in the recent World Twenty20 tournament, played in the final after taking pain-killers ... Sri Lanka will have a new skipper for the series after Mahela Jayawardene resigned following that loss to the West Indies in the Twenty20 final. All-rounder Angelo Mathews is favoured to assume the leadership in the T20 and the ODI matches ... Former England captain and now television commentator Tony Greig, 66, has been diagnosed with lung cancer. "(My wife) Vivian and I are going to put the boxing gloves on and fight this like we've never fought anything before," Greig told the Sunday Telegraph.


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