We are in the last lap of the prestigious Indian Premier League (IPL) arguably the richest sporting league of its type in the world. In past editions, a couple of teams raced ahead and were clear favorites for the title while a few were laggards. This year, the 13th edition being played in the United Arab Emirates, proved to be one of the most interesting and closely contested events.
Here are the four left standing after the league phase of 56 matches in which each of the 8 teams played their 7 opposing teams twice. The Mumbai Indians were the first to qualify with 8 wins. They have won the tournament in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019. No other team has won so many times!
Their supporters say Rohit Sharma’s team will lift the Cup this year as well with their formidable batting and bowling squads. Yet every team can be beaten. Mumbai have lost 5 matches, including one in a thriller super over against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). In any case, their opponents say they win only in alternate years so probably won’t win this year!
The Delhi Capitals, having had one of their best seasons qualified to be No 2 by beating the Bangalore team. Not having won the title so far, their motivation will be very high driven by their Head Coach, the Aussie Ricky Ponting. They will play the Mumbai Indians in the first match of the knock outs on November 5. The winner will go straight into the finals. This is the biggest advantage of finishing first or second in the league phase. This team has never qualified for the finals so far.
The loss to Delhi Capitals pushed Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) to the third place but at least they made it to the last four. This is indeed creditable because they finished 8, 6, and 8 in the last three years! They featured in three finals- in 2009, 2011, and 2016 but have never won the IPL trophy so far. Will this year end on a magical note for them?
Until the very last match, we didn’t know who would be the fourth team to qualify for the play offs. However in that match, Mumbai Indians were given a bloody nose by the Sunrisers Hyderabad who not only won but crushed them with a rare 10 wicket victory. It is not as if the openers had to score 50-60 runs to win. David Warner and Wriddhiman Saha scored all the 151 needed for a match-winning opening partnership. With this victory, Sunrisers Hyderabad vaulted to the No 3 position going ahead of Royal Challengers Bangalore by virtue of a better net run rate. They have won the title in 2016 so will be trying for their second title.
Who do we expect to shine in this last lap? While every player is important and matches have been lost by extremely narrow margins because of a small lapse, each team has a few stars they count upon. For Mumbai Indians, I rate Bumrah and Pollard to be the most dangerous players on their day. For Delhi Capitals, their Purple Cap holder with 25 wickets so far this season, Kagiso Rabada and their seasoned opener Shikhar Dhawan will be key. I expect David Warner and Rashid Khan to be the best performers for the Sunrisers just as Virat Kohli and A B De Villiers will, as always, be banked upon by the Royal Challengers.
So, let’s wait and see what happens as the last four matches will decide who will lift the 2020 IPL trophy on November 10.