Hold onto your seatbelts! Why? you ask… it’s because the IPL rollercoaster is about to reach its peak; Now, all that is left is to go with the flow and enjoy the trip downtown. Which four teams will stand their ground after the 14 games is undoubtedly a question but searching for this answer is like Dr Strange looking into multiple possible futures. With 10 teams giving their all to make it to the playoffs, let’s have a look at what our favourite teams are placed at in the prized points table and what they have to offer in their final spurt in this fan-crazy 2-month-long marathon.
10. Mumbai Indians
Contesting for the wooden spoon are Mumbai Indians! Yeah, you read that right. IPL’s most successful team is instead this edition’s most unsuccessful team. After losing their first eight games, MI has finally found the taste of victory in their 9th game, where they effectively ended Rajasthan Royals’ three-match winning streak. Suryakumar Yadav and Tilak Varma are the only batsmen who have shown intent to win. Both have scored 597 runs out of 1474 runs MI scored. That’s nearly 40% of runs by the two batters. Daniel Sams has been their most successful bowler picking up seven wickets but at a massive economy of 10.47. That’s the story of the entire MI line-up. As of now, MI is already out of the playoff race, but they love to play the role of the party-poopers. Having faced a slapping humiliation, MI is now looking to give some of it back to the other teams.
9. Chennai Super Kings
Just above Mumbai Indians are their eternal rivals, Chennai Super Kings. The second most successful side in the history of IPL is currently second from the bottom. With just 6 points in the ten games, CSK’s playoff hopes are bleak as well. After having a rather embarrassing start to his captaincy career, Ravindra Jadeja has decided to give back the leadership role to the legendary MS Dhoni. Dhoni’s first game as the captain was a sweet one as it saw CSK’s misfiring batting lineup take the heat to the SRH’s bowling attack, which is probably one of the best in this year’s IPL. But his happy time was cut short by a former comrade in Faf du Plessis and his RCB. While CSK has looked rustic over the entire course of the season, MS Dhoni has looked his vintage self. ‘The Finisher Supreme’ has been haunting many death-bowlers, as he rolls back the clock, once again, to be ‘that’ difference between the victory and the loss. It will be a pity if the Thala decides to retire after such a magnificent show.
8. Kolkata Knight Riders
Standing eighth in the points table is SRK-owned KKR. Kolkata was one of the few teams who decided to start anew by not retaining their ex-captain Eoin Morgan who led them to the finals last season. They brought in a bunch of fresh faces, including the likes of captain Shreyas Iyer, Ajinkya Rahane and Aaron Finch. After the auction, they looked to be one of the most balanced sides. They also won 3 of their first four matches, but that’s all their luck. Nothing has gone KKR’s way since then, as they won just one game from the following six they played. Shreyas Iyer leads from the front with 324 runs in his kitty at a respectable average of 36 and a strike rate of 133.33, but others fail to follow his lead. Andre Russell promised fireworks at the dawn of the tournament, but the slugger’s just throwing away his wicket. Russell should better know that this isn’t baseball. The bowling has been a mixed story as pacers are doing well, with Umesh Yadav leading the pack with 15 wickets, but spinners are failing to replicate their best. Sunil Narine has been less successful this season but has been economic, conceding just 5.25 runs an over. The problem lies in Varun Chakravarthy who has been taken to the cleaners on a whim. Kolkata’s hopes to qualify would largely depend on their spinners finding their groove.
7. Punjab Kings
New Season, New Team, New Management and New Captain. Same old story for the Punjab franchise, who still dream of lifting their maiden IPL trophy. Punjab had a lukewarm start to the campaign, winning and losing on a rhythm. Mayank Agarwal-led-Kings looked decent with a new batting approach, which featured going aggressively for the runs. It worked well for them but soon backfired as they lost wickets in the quest for runs. Shikhar Dhawan and Liam Livingstone have been the backbone of the Punjab line-up. Their biggest culprits would be Jonny Bairstow and the skipper Agarwal himself. Both have been misfiring for quite a while, and the continuation of such performance can cost Punjab Kings a valuable playoff spot. Their bowling, on the other hand, has been remarkable. Kagiso Rabada has been taking the pace attack to the opposition while others have supported him well. The spinners are choking out the runs but haven’t been dangerous enough. All they need now is another reliable batsman who can fill in the runs they are lacking.
6. Sunrisers Hyderabad
Losing their first two matches with a significant margin, everyone expected another lacklustre season from the 2016 winners. But Kane Williamson and Co. turned the tables around in such a way that they won their next five matches on a trot. That was all they could do as they lost their next three games. SRH now finds itself at a crossroads. The idea of Kane Williamson opening the innings isn’t going well. Abhishek Sharma has been doing a good job, on the other hand leading the run-scoring for SRH with 331 runs in 10 outings. He has been supported well by the flamboyant Rahul Tripathi, Reliable Aiden Markram and the fiery Nicholas Pooran. Hyderabad’s batting isn’t its Achilles heel anymore. As many acknowledge, SRH has always been known for their bowling attack. Bhuvneshwar Kumar led attack has been famous for its ability to defend the lowest of targets. No other team can protect a measly score of 106 in Chinnaswamy Stadium as SRH can. What’s hurting SRH the most is the lack of a quality spinner. Rashid Khan’s departure has left a big hole in SRH’s field. Washington Sundar has been offering his services, but alone spinner can’t pressure the opponents. Umran Malik and Marco Jansen did have standout seasons, with them excelling their pace and bounce under the guidance of a mythical Dale Steyn, but the past few matches have seen them ineffective. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, as always, is an alone bowler waging a battle as his swing has been intimidating this season. Natarajan has been successful but has been a tad bit expensive. SRH has one of the best odds of qualifying unless they choose to mess up.
5. Delhi Capitals
Delhi Capitals can be described by one man, Rishabh Pant. India’s first-choice keeper has had his share of controversies. Delhi has been at its fluctuating best. In one match, they win against all the odds, and in the other, they throw away a sitter. David Warner has been their only ray of hope, as he was in the Hyderabad franchise. Warner has been at his aggressive best, smashing 356 runs at an outstanding average of nearly 60 and a monstrous strike rate of 156.82. Rishabh Pant has been playing in some good knocks but is unable to make the desired destruction. Their bowling has been disciplined to boot for. Kuldeep Yadav and Khaleel Ahmed have found redemption at the Capital’s camp and are producing breathtaking spells. With Warner at the top, Delhi is on an even footing to qualify.
4. Royal Challengers Bangalore
Virat Kohli’s decision to resign from captaincy to focus on his batting hasn’t worked. Bangalore’s Ace is struggling to find the runs to come his way. Barring Virat, RCB’s batting has been dismal. Glenn Maxwell has been finding some solid starts, but a lack of support from the other end is forcing him to throw away his wicket. Faf du Plessis has been delivering but has been inconsistent for the first time in his career. Their only positive would be Dinesh Karthik. After a depressing campaign with KKR, DK was picked up by RCB during this auction. That proved to be a masterstroke as DK’s finishing has taken a below-par RCB score to a safe margin. His excellency and experience behind the stumps have also worked well in RCB’s favour. Their bowling has been a different story from the past. For the first time in the IPL, RCB’s bowling has been effective. After years of optimising, RCB management has finally cracked a code for a decade and a half long answer. They have also found a reliable foreign pacer in Josh Hazlewood. Wanindu Hasaranga hasn’t let RCB feel Yuzvendra Chahal’s absence. Now all RCB has to do is pray to God that their Ace, King Kohli finds his rhythm back as soon as possible.
3. Rajasthan Royals
The Royals have been looking this rampant for the first time in a while. With Jos Buttler looking to break King Kohli’s record tally of 973 runs, nothing can stand up in RR’s way, or so we thought. Buttler’s magnificent form indicates that the rest of the RR lineup doesn’t have much to offer. Their biggest worry has been the other opener, Devdutt Padikkal falling short almost every time. Shimron Hetmyer has done a brilliant job cleaning up in the end, but the skipper Sanju Samson has been doing what he does the best. Throw away his wicket. Riyan Parag needs to learn that his bat needs to talk or rather dance before he does. While their batting has been lopsided and over-reliant on the Buttler, their bowling attack has distributed responsibilities equally. Trent Boult and Prasidh Krishna have forged an excellent partnership keeping the batters shut. This paves the way for perhaps the best Spin-duo in IPL, as Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravi Ashwin wreak havoc in the middle overs. Their motto being grabbing wickets at a nominal price. Even here, Ashwin looks to pressure the batsman into the corner while Chahal dishes out some meatballs to lure the batsman out. It isn’t before he is dismissed does he realises that he has fallen into the trap. Pure Chess from the ex-Chessman. RR needs to sort their batting woes as this can cost them a ticket to the finals.
2. Lucknow Super Giants
Lucknow Super Giants are one of the most unbalanced teams on the paper. Their batting order is relatively shallow…If either QDK or KL Rahul departs, scoring runs is a monstrous task for the team, but unexpectedly Deepak Hooda has stepped up whenever he needed to. Krunal Pandya has been somewhat lukewarm. The commendable stat would be that at least 7 of their bowlers have taken more than eight wickets. Their well-rounded bowling line-up has long protected the shortcomings of their batting. Being in an advantageous position, all Lucknow is to do is fix their flaws and put forward a brave front; the talented KL Rahul will do the rest.
1. Gujarat Titans
After the auctions, nobody expected Gujarat Titans to stand at the top of the table. What’s more shocking is the fact that Hardik Pandya has been making no mistakes with his captaincy. Now Hardik Pandya would have been the last name one would associate with the word ‘Captain’, but yeah, the local lad is doing wonders for the Gujarat Titans. Hardik has been Gujarat’s primer scorer this season with 333 runs, closely followed by Shubman Gill (321) and David Miller (306), who is having a revival in IPL. Gujarat’s bowling attack looks pretty stocked up as well. Leading their pace battery is the veteran Mohammed Shami, along with the lightning pace of Lockie Ferguson. Both the pacers have knocked up 27 wickets in 11 matches, making them a frightful duo. However, the man running the show is the magical Rashid Khan. The spin-wizard has shown his multi-dimensional talents this season. Rashid has done his job of suffocating opposition very well and has even picked up a few freebies along the way. His fielding has always been spectacular, but his skills with the bat have garnered the most attention this season. Rashid has finished matches for Gujarat more than a couple of times. Pair him with Rahul ‘Smacker’ Tewatia, and you have a couple of intimidating finishers in the middle. Nothing has gone wrong for Gujarat Titans this season, and they may well be on the course to win their first IPL trophy.