Johannesburg - Whatever data you want to look at, it all points to the Highveld Lions being the rank underdogs when they open the Champions League T20 against the Mumbai Indians at the Wanderers on Friday night. But that's just the way they want it.
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"Obviously it is a big game for us, being the opening game and everything, and they obviously have a lot more experience than us. But whether you've played 100 tests or one provincial game, all that matters is what you bring on the day. We don't care about the opposition, we are a young team and we will play for each other and play as a unit," Lions captain Alviro Petersen said on Tuesday.
The Mumbai Indians boast the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, West Indian all-rounders Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo, JP Duminy, Indian bowling stars Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan and Sri Lankan paceman Lasith Malinga. But only four of those will be able to take the field in accordance with IPL rules and that, as well as the Lions' home-ground advantage, will even matters out a bit.
"I would think all the pressure is on the Mumbai Indians, they are one of the clear favourites. But I like it that way, we can just play our natural game, and I like it when people write us off. No one's expecting anything from us and we showed in last year's Pro20 domestic tournament that all that matters is what we do on the day and whether we play as a team. As a team we don't have many big names and on paper we're one of the weakest sides, but you don't play cricket on paper," Petersen said defiantly.
In fact, such is the confidence in the Lions camp that Petersen is already talking about getting video footage of the Victoria, Wayamba and Central Districts sides, non-IPL teams that the Lions can only meet in the semi-finals!
How the Lions handle the nerves of the big occasion on Friday night will also be a telling factor, but journeyman swing bowler Cliffe Deacon said he welcomed the idea of being nervous.
"Nerves are a funny thing, it's always good to have some heading into a game. Just being totally laid back is not a good thing.
"We put pressure on ourselves and that gives us confidence to go up against these big names like you get in the Mumbai Indians," he said.
But the Lions are also showing signs of fighting a phoney war in the minds of their opponents, with Deacon refusing to answer whether he is currently swinging the ball in the nets in early September or whether the pitches are particularly different to normal summer conditions.
The Lions had a training camp in Potchefstroom that also included video sessions on their Group B opponents, the Mumbai Indians, South Australia, Bangalore Royal Challengers and Guyana. Much time was also spent in discussions over the team make-up and Petersen said he sees a mix-and-match approach as being best.
"A major focus of the camp was giving guys game time and working out what our best combinations are. There are guys who can be used in different positions, for example, Neil McKenzie has opened the batting for us, but played in the middle-order for Hampshire and did very well there. I myself am normally an opener, but I played in the middle-order for the Lions last season.
"So we'll just have to mix and match, but everyone is in a good space and, the fact is, when I send everyone out on to the field on Friday, they all know they'll have to up the ante by a minimum of 20%," Petersen said.