2354 days ago
IPL 7: Predicting the Top 4
The IPL juggernaut has reached its final stages. We are at the business end of the league stages and all the teams are running through the numbers of what they need to do to make it to the knock out stages. After today’s game between Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Mumbai Indians, all the 8 teams would have played 9 games apiece. They will all be left with 5 games that will decide whether or not they get a shot at this year’s title.
Over the past few years, considering only years with 8 participating franchises, a haul of 14 points from your 14 games seems to be the bare minimum to qualify for a top 4 position – along with a favorable Net Run Rate. As of currently, all teams can make it to that level. An 18 point haul is a good haul to qualify for the coveted top 2 positions. The top 5 teams – RCB, MI and SRH aside- can get to that haul. Obviously, the fixture list and the weather will heavily affect these permutations. But given, Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Superkings current haul of 14 points with 5 games to play; they are certainties for the 4 and favorites for the top 2 positions. Kings XI Punjab’s healthy net run rate of 1.025 gives them an added edge.
The Rajasthan Royals, after their stunning ‘come-from-behind’ win over the Royal Challengers’ Bangalore, find themselves just 2 points adrift of the top two with 12 points. But they have shown weaknesses such as in their recent loss to Sunrisers Hyderabad at home when they failed to chase down 134. They should take great confidence from their win over Bangalore and kick on for their next game against the mighty Chennai Superkings. With games against struggling Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians(twice) still to come, their will need to finish off games and take advantage of opposition mistakes to seal a comfortable top 4 finish. Their performances in away games against Chennai and Punjab will test their top 2 credentials. This is the team best placed to challenge the top 2, and thereby favorites to finish in the top 4 as well.
Kolkata Knight Riders struggled in the UAE leg of the tournament due to the failure of their batting unit. Since coming back to India, they have found a new opening pair in Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir. The dynamic stroke play of Uthappa has allowed Gambhir to take his time at the top of the batting order to settle in and play his game. The two have managed partnerships of 68(v XKIP), 106 (v DD), (121 v RR) and 17 (v CSK) in their 4 matches as opening partners. Their middle order has struggled – most famously against the Rajasthan Royals, when they lost 6 wickets for 2 runs in 2 overs – but the presence of the likes of Manish Pandey, Jacques Kallis, Yusuf Pathan and one of Shakib Al Hasan, Ryan Ten Doeschate or Chris Lynn means you cannot take it lightly. With their next game against the struggling Mumbai Indians (at Cuttack, where they recorded a 9 wicket win over the might Punjab) KKR can build momentum for the final stretch. However it will be their double header against fellow top 4 contenders Sunrisers Hyderabad, and the home game against Bangalore that will decide their fate.
Sunrisers Hyderabad have been on and off all season so far. They have defended well but chased poorly – except against DD, when a certain Duckworth and Lewis helped a great deal. They currently find themselves tied at 8 points with KKR with a game in hand against strugglers Mumbai. Sunrisers are great at their home ground in Hyderabad. They have a strong bowling attack that can take advantage of the conditions and bother the opposition batting line up. With their next 4 games played at home, they can extend their current 2 game winning streak and give the top 4 a run for their money. Their top 4 batsman – Dhawan, Finch, Warner and Rahul will need to contribute better to their bowlers’ efforts. As mentioned under KKR, the double header between these two teams will play a major role in deciding their top 4 fates.
RCB’s batting had struggled till the Rajasthan game. Then their bowling struggled to defend 190 despite a 4 wicket haul for Yuvraj. They have a mental weakness about them. Captain Kohli’s failure with the bat doesn’t help the cause. The absence of a Gayle storm so far this season – barring one Maxwell over – also has hindered their progress this season. A lot needs to change for them to be serious contenders for the top 4 spot.
Mumbai Indians, have a team of big names that just haven’t clicked this season. The struggle to nail down a good opening partnership, and figure out a good batting line up, while their bowling attack deals with injuries and the struggles of all-rounders Pollard and Anderson with the ball have all contributed to a general feeling of uncertainty when they come out to play. It often seems they have more playing talent in the backroom staff than on the pitch. Their backroom staff includes Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Anil Kumble, Jonty Rhodes and Robin Singh. See my point? They do however have 6 games in hand and a if they can take 10 points from those 6 games, and other results go their way, they do have an outside chance.
Delhi Daredevils came into this season, with a completely revamped side featuring the likes of Kevin Pietersen – free from International duties, Dinesh Karthik, Murali Vijay, JP Duminy, Ross Taylor, Mohamad Shami and the inform Quentin De Kock. The obvious problem after seeing that list is the shortage of quality bowling options. While their bowling has been of concern, their batting has hardly covered themselves in glory. Their insistence on playing their most in-form batsman JP Duminy at no. 6 behind Laxmi Ratan Shukla has often been the difference between a 150 and 175. The fact that a no. 6 batsman has made so much difference also stresses on the failures of the top order. They have tried numerous combinations to no avail. There is a sense that even fixing their batting line up might not be enough due to a lack of quality in the bowling. After recent performances, they are the least likely team to make the top 4.
Kings XI Punjab’s attacking brand of cricket and Dhoni led CSK’s pragmatic approach to games, sees them comfortable in the Top 2 and almost certainties for the knockout stages. Rajasthan Royals have also done well with a remarkable team effort to take them on the brink of a Top 4 place and ready to challenge for the Top 2. KKR and SRH have recovered from uneven starts and identified their strengths. They are both in a great position to kick on and get a run of wins under their belt to fight for the last top 4 spot.