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Indian T20 League 2021: What To Expect In The Playoffs

The Indian T20 League 2021 season has now reached its final stages with three playoff berths confirmed and the fight for the last berth going down to the wire. Team Delhi and Team Chennai have emerged as the clear favourites to win the tournament after spectacular performances from both sides, while the Virat Kohli-led Team Bangalore is still in the hunt for its maiden Indian T20 League title. Team Mumbai and Team Kolkata will be battling it out for the final playoff spot today, while Team Punjab still have a minuscule shot at qualification.

As the Indian T20 League enters its final stages, we take a look at the top storylines to watch out for in the playoffs:

 BATTLE OF THE FAVOURITES

With Team Hyderabad’s thrilling victory over Team Bangalore yesterday, Team Chennai are now assured of a top-two finish, and they will face Team Delhi in the first Qualifier. After having a spectacular start to the second leg, Team Chennai have lost their last two matches and will be keen to get back to winning ways. Team Delhi, on the other hand, guided by Ricky Ponting and led by the dynamic Rishabh Pant, have gone from strength to strength this season after a brilliant run to the finals last year, and will be keen to lay their hands on the trophy.

Notably, Team Chennai have lost both their fixtures against Team Delhi this year. The first fixture saw the duo of Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw put together an opening partnership of 138 runs to chase the 188-run target set by Team Chennai comfortably. The latest encounter between both sides just two days ago saw Team Chennai choke in the death overs to put together a measly 136-run target, which Team Delhi then chased without any trouble. There will be a lot of homework to do in the Chennai camp, and Team Delhi will be heading into the game with better form without a doubt.

CAN MS DHONI SHINE WITH THE BAT?

One of the major concerns for Team Chennai has been the form of their captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has failed to spark at critical moments throughout the tournament. In the match against Team Delhi on Monday, Dhoni could only manage to score 14 runs off 27 balls – a terrible strike rate for any batsman in a T20 game. He has scored just 84 runs so far in Team Chennai’s 13 games – with a measly average of 14. The 40-year-old is known for his explosive and dynamic batting style but has been struggling lately with his form. But Dhoni remains an asset to the team, and he has repaid Team Chennai’s faith in him after a disastrous exit last year by guiding the team to the playoffs already. One explosive finish from him in the playoffs is enough to put all talks of Dhoni’s retirement to rest.

One of the major concerns for Team Chennai has been the form of their captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has failed to spark at critical moments throughout the tournament. In the match against Team Delhi on Monday, Dhoni could only manage to score 14 runs off 27 balls – a terrible strike rate for any batsman in a T20 game. He has scored just 84 runs so far in Team Chennai’s 13 games – with a measly average of 14. The 40-year-old is known for his explosive and dynamic batting style but has been struggling lately with his form. But Dhoni remains an asset to the team, and he has repaid Team Chennai’s faith in him after a disastrous exit last year by guiding the team to the playoffs already. One explosive finish from him in the playoffs is enough to put all talks of Dhoni’s retirement to rest.

VIRAT KOHLI’S ETERNAL QUEST

If there is one thing Virat Kohli has been unable to do so far in his career, it is win silverware for his team. India’s most successful captain has not managed to win even a single international cup for the Blues, nor has he managed to win the Indian T20 League despite repeatedly being the tournament’s top scorer. With Kohli announcing that he will step down as captain of the Indian national team in the T20s after the World Cup later this year and Team Bangalore after this season, fans are eager to see the world’s best batsman step down on a high note.

After failing to reach the final last year, Team Bangalore have made numerous modifications to the team in their quest to win the title. That includes promoting skipper Virat Kohli to the opener role – a role he embraced well by scoring 362 runs with an average of 30.16. Devdutt Padikkal and Glenn Maxwell have been solid throughout the season, enabling Team Bangalore to post high scores even against top-bowling attacks. But it is in the bowling department where Harshal Patel has emerged as the breakthrough player of the season – and he is expected to play a key role in the playoffs.

TEAM MUMBAI STILL IN CONTENTION

As Team Delhi and Team Bangalore aim to win their maiden title, there is yet another challenger that can ruin their chances. While Team Kolkata are the frontrunners to claim the top-four berth, another thumping win by Rohit Sharma’s men can propel them ahead to the fourth spot by reducing the NRR gap. Team Mumbai are unarguably the most successful team in the history of the Indian T20 League – and if they make it to the playoffs with a victory over weak Team Hyderabad, they will easily put the group stage performance behind them. But for Team Mumbai to qualify, they should win against Team Hyderabad either by 66 balls or with more than 48 runs and also hope that Team Kolkata win against Team Rajasthan with a very close margin.

If Team Kolkata make it through to the playoffs, Virat Kohli’s men will breathe easy and would have no trouble making it past the eliminator. But if Team Mumbai qualify for playoffs, it will be another matter altogether – with Rohit Sharma and his men being the more experienced side when it comes to handling playoff pressure.

SCHEDULE AND VENUES

The first Qualifier will take place on 10th October in Dubai. In all likelihood, the qualifier will be contested between Team Chennai and Team Delhi, and batsmen from both sides will be more comfortable playing on Dubai’s pitches than elsewhere. The Eliminator between Team Bangalore and Mumbai or Kolkata will take place on 11th October in Sharjah, with the victor travelling to Dubai to face the loser of Qualifier 1.