After 56 matches and 46 days of mind boggling cricket, the Indian Premier League has finally brought us up to the Playoffs. Mumbai Indians, Delhi Capitals, Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Royal Challengers Bangalore who finished at the top half of the table will stake their claims to the ‘IPL Champions’ Title starting November 5th. “It is the closest and the toughest IPL season ever!” There would never be a sentence explaining this year’s IPL. Of all kinds of results that one could have ever imagined from convincing victories to close and barest-of-margins competitions, IPL 2020 has been home to every single one of those.
The last week began with so many possibilities, with every match being crucial to play-off aspirations. And every match has been one-sided! The same team has dominated and been crushed! The tail-end of the #IPL is a different beast.
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) November 3, 2020
It all started with the second match where Delhi Capitals came from behind against Kings XI Punjab to take the game to the super over. To what once seemed like yet another easy win went down till the very end and sprung in a bigger surprise in the super-over. To our pleasant surprise, it was only a trailer to the movie that was to unfold. A movie that wrote it’s script for itself and needed no extra efforts for its promotion. The game saw multiple players from multiple teams come up with one stellar performance after the other. It gave spectators and fans from all teams moments to cherish, savor and relive in their memories. Just the fact that only two points separate the Top 4 with the bottom half is a proof to the intensity and the brand of cricket in practice.
The race to the IPL 2020 Title:
Mumbai Indians are inarguably the most consistent side in the history of the IPL. Especially over the last decade with four titles, they have been the most successful and have looked to raise their level every season. The team, known to regain shape only after an early loss, followed the script to come back in the tournament and put a few stellar performances on display. They have also been the side with least number of changes in the tournament, speaking volumes about the ability, temperament and trust within the squad. It wouldn’t be false to term them as the ‘Favorites’ to win the Title this year.
With Bumrah, Boult, Chahar and Pattinson all in top form, the bowling attack looks as formidable as ever. Even with the bat, the domestic likes of Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav have found form and have shown both, the intent to score runs and the hunger to succeed. Their contribution has completed the side aiding the hard-hitting abilities of the Pandyas and the Pollards to exercise full flow. The return of Rohit Sharma is also sure to add some boost to the side. The team has done absolutely nothing wrong in recent times and it will only take a disaster for them to lose out on two consecutive chances of entering the finals.
One team who seemed capable of giving it tough to the Mumbai Indians in this entire tournament was Delhi Capitals. However the franchise lost plot in the second half and in turn of events also found themselves risking an elimination. Though the win against RCB, the one that saw them through to the playoffs, would have helped them regain confidence, it will be crucial for Delhi to bury the nemesis of the previous 4-match losing streak deep down. Delhi have plenty of resources both with the bat and the ball and it is only time that they strike back with both to their fullest potential.
Shikhar Dhawan has been the mainstay of Delhi’s top-order off late. And the emergence of Ajinkya Rahane last game is also sure to add more stability with the bat. The team has a good firepower in the middle with the likes of a relatively-misfiring Rishabh Pant and dependable Marcus Stoinis. The two spinning all-rounders Ashwin and Axar have also made crucial contributions but it is the South African pace-duo of Rabada and Nortje that’s been a great revelation. If Delhi are to qualify for the finals and to even reach the title, the role of these two will be of pivotal importance.
You look at the team and you’ll only admire the stature, capabilities and the potential in the Hyderabad team. Ironically though, Sunrisers failed to find the right balance in the opening half of the tournament. The frequent experiments with their four foreigners, in the middle order and even with the bowling attack never allowed the team to settle in. The biggest change in approach came in with the unplanned addition of Jason Holder to the side. Holder was added as a replacement to the injured Mitchell Marsh and proved to be an inspiration for the team. His exploits with the ball and the ability to go big with the bat was the exact kind of boost the team needed.
The inclusion of Holder though, meant one of Williamson and Bairstow would miss out, since Warner and Rashid chose themselves. Interestingly, SRH decided to strengthen the middle order against the firepower of Bairstow. The decision has turned out to be one of the best this season. Not only has the team performed well but the substitute keeper in Saha has done brilliantly with the bat as well. All of this and the prowess of Rashid Khan with the ball has aided the team’s development extra-ordinarily. Rashid’s performance has also rubbed onto other bowlers and the team has transpired to be some force in reckoning. On paper, the side is quite capable of scoring the required hat trick of wins for the Title but whether it really achieves it, is for time to decide
4Royal Challengers Bangalore:
Still in pursuit of an elusive IPL Title, the Royal Challengers Bangalore are not quite firm-footed entering the playoffs. With an inane ability to choke at crucial junctures, RCB have lost four on the trot on their way to qualification for the Playoffs. Quite reminiscent of the RCB of previous times, the team has struggled with fielding the right balance and combination. The number of injuries to important players (Morris and Saini) in the team has stunted the growth further.
Much unlike previous years, RCB began well this year winning most of their matches in the first half. They carried their form through even beyond before losing all of their last four games by some convincing margin. The overdependence on Paddikal at the top, the comparatively quiet seasons from ABD and Kohli and the inability of the bowlers to contain runs has come back to haunt the team highly. Facing a stern opponent in SRH and possibly even tougher opponents in DC/MI later on will be a challenge. But, as they often say that ‘The challenges bring the best out of Virat Kohli!’. Every single fan from the #PlayBold army will hope for a miracle and perhaps the “Ee Saala Cup Namde” moment.