With the Indian T20 League playoffs just weeks away, teams are getting ready for one final lap that could make or break their season after a taxing tournament in the desert of UAE. Here we assess the probability of each team ending in the top four.
Sitting second in the points table with 12 points, Mumbai have won six of the nine matches they have played and look the biggest contenders to lift the Indian T20 League title alongside Delhi. However, one look at their next few fixtures and you would realize the run will not be smooth. Amongst the five matches remaining, Mumbai have clashes remaining against in-form Bangalore and Delhi sides, who have exhibited enough firepower to crush Mumbai’s playoff party.
If that is not enough, Chennai also await their face-off with Mumbai, with MS Dhoni looking to leave UAE with one last memorable performance. Chennai have won only three matches this season and one of them has been against Mumbai, which hints at the psychological block that Mumbai have against MS Dhoni.
This year might finally be Delhi’s year. The process that had started a few years back with Gautam Gambhir stepping down for a young Shreyas Iyer to take charge, might finally see fruition in UAE this time. Mentored by Ricky Ponting, the team sits atop the table with a prolific seven wins from 10 games and has looked like the only side to compete against Mumbai in terms of consistency.
Though both Mumbai and Bangalore remain stern tests for Delhi, they should see easy wins in their other two matches against Kolkata and Hyderabad. With both Kolkata and Hyderabad struggling with their batting, a Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje-inspired Team Delhi are expected to break through them with ease and seal a playoff spot comfortably.
Though third-placed Bangalore also remain in prime position to reach the Indian T20 League playoffs with as many as five matches to go, their inconsistent run in the league could see Virat Kohli make a nervy finish to the league stage. Bangalore haven’t had more than a two-match winning streak in this season so far, and with their remaining opponents being Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Delhi, that streak is unlikely to improve either.
Bangalore’s over-reliance on Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers has also been a worry for fans who realize their side could lose most of their remaining fixtures if the batting duo doesn’t turn up. More importantly, not playing against Punjab and Rajasthan anymore would mean Bangalore cannot choose and pick their games. Hence, the clash against Kolkata remain Kohli’s best chance of seeing daylight between Bangalore and other playoff contenders.
With the number of things that have gone wrong for Kolkata this season, it is surprising they still sit fourth in the points table. Despite Andre Russell not clicking, Sunil Narine’s bowling action preventing him from playing and Dinesh Karthik giving away the captaincy midway, Kolkata have maintained a topsy-turvy form to churn out close wins against the unlikeliest of opponents. However, they will have to soon take charge through talent and stop riding on luck.
With fixtures against Chennai, Delhi, Bangalore and Punjab, all standing in Kolkata’s road to playoffs, Eoin Morgan will need a winning combination and fast. With Kolkata already beating Chennai, Punjab and Rajasthan earlier in the season, they would be confident of their abilities. The only positive for Kolkata remains that most of their upcoming matches are against teams sitting below them, which leaves their qualification chances in their hands.
Punjab have seemingly found a winning mentality, which should have always been with the side that is entrenched in talent across all the departments. Their last three wins have come against the top three teams – Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi – and this should do wonders for their Indian T20 League campaign which had otherwise been a downward slope since September.
Seeing off most of the tougher opponents mean Punjab have four inconsistent and underperforming teams waiting for them in Hyderabad, Kolkata, Rajasthan and Chennai. And if not for some suicidal brand of cricket, which has been exhibited by Punjab earlier this season, KL Rahul could see his side qualify for the playoffs to make one of the greatest comeback stories in the tournament’s history.
In Rajasthan, the Indian T20 League has seen a team that could stun the best of opponents on their day and go down like an underdog on others. Of course, Rajasthan had looked over-reliant on a bunch of individual T20 stars from the first day, but the rise of Rahul Tewatia and Riyan Parag have tilted the beam balance their way from time to time.
However. the side has struggled to find their winning combination and with 10 matches already over, Steve Smith might feel that their campaign is also over. If there was still a glimmer of hope for them, their upcoming fixtures against Mumbai, Punjab and Kolkata totally obliterate that. An inconsistent Rajasthan haven’t stitched together two wins since their opening two games and they would need a Punjab-like reincarnation to turn the tables now.
The 2020 Indian T20 League season of Hyderabad and Chennai should work as an example of what aspects to look out for during the auctions. This isn’t the first time that the tournament has been held out of India and teams built around their home turf has always suffered on such conditions. Despite having batsmen in Jonny Bairstow, David Warner, Kane Williamson and Mayank Agarwal, Hyderabad’s famed bowling attack has been rendered ineffective by the UAE pitches as the side sits second from bottom.
Hyderabad have managed to win just once in their last five matches, which is a huge blow to their confidence, And if that wasn’t enough, they have Punjab, Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore waiting in the remaining five fixtures. Though Warner has been relatively consistent with the willow, Hyderabad’s form has dipped too much for them to make a comeback.
It is upsetting to see MS Dhoni‘s Chennai already done and dusted even before the playoffs. However, with their star players leaving the camp before the season started and Dhoni’s vanishing form coming to the fore, there was no way Chennai could have pulled off this heist in UAE.
Though victories in all their remaining fixtures might still not guarantee a playoff finish for the yellow army, matches against Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Punjab mean Chennai would need a herculean task blended with luck to qualify for the playoffs.
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