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May 22, 2011

Indian Premier League - 4: The Play-offs

As i sit down to write this, the league stage of an uninteresting fourth season of IPL is about to be over. The four teams to qualify are: Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Chennai Super Kings(CSK), Mumbai Indians (MI) and Kolkata Night Riders(KKR). So that's 3/4 for me as far as my predictions go, made before the start of the season here.

The surprise package, no doubt, has been RCB and their success has one major reason - Chris Gayle. They were dwindling after the first few games, but Gayle changed the whole momentum with some blistering hitting at top of the order. It is ironic that other big hitters like AB Devillers and Saurabh Tiwary had hardly got a bat after he has come in. And this non-practice by other players could hurt RCB in the play-offs. However, they have become the first team to qualify for the CLT20-2011 and the first team to qualify in all three seasons of CL-T20. Quite an achievement from being branded as a 'test team' at the start of season one of IPL.

The fourth team which i picked instead of RCB was Pune warriors (PW), which surprisingly finished second last from the bottom (and RCB at top of the table, phew!). It's difficult to pin-point what exactly went wrong with that team, but definitely nothing much went right from the start. After winning the first two games, they slumped to seven consecutive defeats. Losing Angelo Matthews and Ashish Nehra at the start of the tournament was never going to be easy, they also lost Smith due to injury and Ganguly returned when they were well out of reckoning of the playoffs. I really think, they never got their selection right, right through... too many changes in the batting order, too much chopping of players is never good in a long, drainy IPL. Only bright spot for them is Rahul Sharma - the leggie who overcome a facial half-paralysis attack during the early part of the tournament to take so many top-order wickets. He had to take eye-drops in one of the matches after every delivery to spot the ball during fielding. Talk about will-power to play, take that!

Chennai Super kings have been a little inconsistent, but come the play-offs and no one would take them lightly. Dhoni's midas touch may continue a little longer as CSK plays their fourth consecutive play-offs in as many seasons. As i write this, Mumbai Indians are well on their way slumping to fourth consecutive defeat. Suddenly, nothing is working for them - No Malinga yorkers, no Symonds-Pollard hitting, no magical innings from Sachin. I will be actually surprised if they make it to the finals, consider their current form.

But the team to have really come on their own is no doubt, Kolkata Night riders. They have qualified for the first time and are my favourites to reach the finals, if not win there. A team who has always been in limelight for the wrong reasons has finally delivered on the cricket field. They did dwindled in middle part of the tournament and with 2 rain-affected games have to actually wait till the last to qualify for the play-offs, but they are a serious contender for the title. I am sure, no one in Kolkata will be celebrating, after all Dada is not playing ;)

My pick for the final: RCB vs KKR, with KKR winning the IPL-4!
Cautious Note: Gayle needs to have a bad day in the final. Like, really :)

PS: Delhi Daredevils finished last this season, but there is always next time. They can go only up. Isn't it :)

Updated: yes, yes. I know MI won over KKR. what a fucking last over that was from L Balaji. Tremendous hitting from Franklin and Rayadu. Well, that changes the equation a little bit. Interesting final week ahead of us in IPL-4. Happy cricket watching! :)


nsiyer said...

Gayle storm - they term it. Just mind boggling. Enjoyed your write up.

Amit Gupta said...

@Iyer Sir

Thanks, long time :)

Gayle has been phenomenal. With WI losing against Pakistan in the last test match, it scares me thinking about the future of cricket. IPL over country, any day for these cricketers.