The IPL (Indian Premier League) has entered its closing and pivotal stage, with four teams through, and of course only one winner to emerge.
It has been 72 games of scintillating T20 action, and with the group stage complete, the top two sides play each other in a Qualifier, before the third and fourth sides play each other in an eliminator. One side from the qualifier goes to the final, and the other finalist is determined by a second qualifier, between the loser of the first qualifier and the winner of the eliminator.
The first qualifier will be Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and The Mumbai Indians (MI). The eliminator will be between the third and fourth places from the group stage; the Rajasthan Royals (RR) and new side Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH).
The first qualifier: CSK Vs. MI (21/05)
Firstly looking at Chennai Super Kings, they have arguably the worlds first super team. They are led by MS Dhoni with the bat, in the field and also due to image and personality in India, often from the support in the stands too. Their batting order only gets better as it goes, with T20 giants such as Michael Hussey (their leading run scorer with 646 runs so far), Suresh Raina, Ravi Jadeja and Murali Vijay.
Undoubtedly CSK’s most valuable attribute is Dhoni’s seemingly superhuman ability to come into matches and win games from absolutely nowhere. No matter how long the chase is, he has time and time again defied belief.
Chennai also have an impressive bowling unit. This is led very well by Dwayne Bravo (25 wickets), Mohit Sharma (17 wickets) and India’s national side’s off spinner Ravi Ashwin.
Moving on to Mumbai Indians, whose campaign has meandered, they in all honesty are rather lucky to have done so well. The Ricky Ponting – Sachin Tendulkar (Pondulkar) experiment was an abject failure, with Ponting playing just six games despite being named captain, and Sachin scoring just one fifty all tournament, yet of course being undroppable.
Mumbai are second in spite of these two, as they have been expertly pulled through by Rohit Sharma, Kieron Pollard and Dinesh Khartik, and their bowlers.
Their bowlers have really been the standout of their side, in particular their International class bowlers; Mitchell Johnson who has had a welcome return to form, Pragyan Ojha, Harbhajan Singh and of course the slinger Lasith Malinga. Collectively these four have taken 73 wickets. Nobody else has surpassed 8 wickets for them.
It would certainly be likely that Chennai would win this qualifier and book their place in the final. Of course this would mean that Mumbai would play the winner of the eliminator. Due to the scandal over Sri Lankan players being banned from playing in Chennai, the game is being played in Delhi to avoid an unfair advantage.
The eliminator is between Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Rajasthan Royals, and it will also be played in Delhi on the 22/05.
Rajasthan Royals have been rocked by a hugely damaging spot fixing scandal, in which three of their players have been arrested. Nevertheless, they find themselves in the position of potentially winning IPL 6. Rahul Dravid has been simply heroic in his leadership and batsmenship, and just about every cricket fan would love to see him triumphant.
Shane Watson, Ajinkya Rahane and Rahul himself have really shone RR. Since winning the tournament in the first year, they have been utterly uninspiring, but this year they have really found some form and momentum. Brad Hodge has been particularly dissapointing, with no fifties at all. They look strong because they are well led, but certainly lack substance.
Their bowling on the other hand is arguably a strength, but really they would require a lot more to win. Their overseas stars have been the mainstay of their success with Australian James Faulkner so far having taken 26 wickets, and West Indian Kevin Cooper 17. Beyond this there is very limited depth.
Their opposition are the Sunrisers Hyderabad. A side with the best bowler in the world, Dale Steyn and Kumar Sangakarra, amongst others have been very poor with the bat, and very good with the ball. Parthiv Patel and Shikhar Dhawan have been the outstanding players with the bat (which is very loosely used). They are without doubt a side with more bowling than batting strength.
Their entire batting has been a major dissapointment infact, with the top run scorer from the Sunrisers being ranked nearly 25th in the overall run scorers list this IPL. They are clearly a side that rely more on bowling. Sangakarra is unlikely to feature, as Cameron White will take over captaincy for the remainder. After mustering a high score of just 28, Sangakarra has been abysmal.
Dale Steyn and Amit Mishra have dominated for the Sunrisers with nearly 40 wickets combined. Thishara Perera and Ishant Sharma have also been key contributants. The Sunrisers do not have the strength of CSK in any department, but they are not as weak as Rajasthan. They have however surprised just about everyone that doubted them.
Few gave them a chance, and they have emphatically reached the top four through being one of the top bowling sides. If this predictions is correct, Chennai will make the final, and the Sunrisers will face Mumbai in the second qualifier. It wouldn’t surprise many people should Sunrisers carry momentum and defeat Mumbai in a potential second qualifier. From the start the Sunrisers have been real dark horses. Don’t write them off making it to the final and winning it.