IPL 2017: While You Wait For Play-Offs, These Four Heavyweights Have Already Won Our Hearts
After 56 gruelling matches, spanning over 40 days, the tenth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has finally found the four teams who will now fight it out in the play-offs in a bid to make it to the tournament’s final.
Where, on one hand, Mumbai Indians (MI) – one of the most consistent teams this season – will take on Pune in what is being labelled as the enticing Maharashtra derby in Qualifier 1, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) will have to overcome the last year’s champions Sunrisers Hyderabad in Qualifier 2.
By virtue of their top two finish, both the Rohit Sharma brigade and Steve Smith-led team will get two bites of the cherry. Mumbai and Pune, despite losing the Qualifier 1, will have another chance to make the finals through the Eliminator.
Despite a brilliant performance this season, Kolkata will surely be a little disappointed if they don’t finish in the top two. Thus, their title hopes will solemnly depend on how they perform in Qualifier 2 against Hyderabad, who are a force to be reckoned with.
As the stakes reach an all-time high in the tournament, here’s a look at how these four IPL giants will fare in the highly-awaited play-offs:
Mumbai Indians (MI)
The two-time IPL champions, Mumbai Indians, began their campaign with a seven-wicket loss to Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) this season. However, the Rohit Sharma brigade made a stellar comeback winning six games on the trot before being trumped by Pune yet again.
Gujarat Lions (GL) tried to inflict a second consecutive defeat on Mumbai but a brilliant Super Over by Jasprit Bumrah ensured that his side clinched the thrilling game with a nail-biting finish. Thanks to their 10 wins in 14 games, Mumbai finished on the top of the table and became the first team to qualify for the play-offs this season.
In Kieron Pollard, Mumbai boasts of a power-hitter who is more than capable of taking the game away from the opposition. The West Indian has slammed 362 runs in 14 games and heads the list of leading run-scorers for Mumbai this season.
Mumbai’s bowling department has been prolific with the availability of Mitchell McClenaghan this season. The New Zealand speedster is the leading wicket-taker for his side with 18 scalps in 13 games to his name. Going into the Qualifier 1, Mumbai will be counting on their proven stars once again to get them over the line.
Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS)
For a man whose second season in the tournament was marred by controversies and some dismal performances early on, Rising Pune Supergiant have clearly come a long way to seal their berth in Qualifier 1.
After staring their campaign with a win under the leadership of new captain Steve Smith, Pune suffered three consecutive losses which got them in a spot of bother. But, with a collective team effort, Pune bounced back to snap their three-match losing streak with a win over Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB).
Eventually with a strong finish against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), Smith’s men didn’t just secure their berth for the play-offs, but they did that by finishing second in the points table. With nine wins in 14 games, Pune became the second team, only behind Mumbai, with the most victories in the league stage.
The move of change in captaincy seemed to have worked for Pune this year. Captain Smith has slammed 420 runs in 13 games to emerge as the leading run-scorer for his side this season. However, it’s their bowling department that has been the one to watch out for in IPL 2017.
The fact that two of their bowlers are currently in the top three of this season’s leading wicket-takers’ list goes on to show their bowling might. Jaydev Unadkat has emerged as the leading wicket-taker for Pune with 21 scalps in just 10 games to his name.
Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH)
Last year’s champions, Sunrisers Hyderabad, have once again proved their mettle this season by making the play-offs. The SRH once again trumped Bangalore in their opener – a deja-vu of last year’s finals.
The defending champions won eight games alongside five losses in their 14 league games this season. The Hyderabadi side secured their play-offs berth on the back of an astounding eight-wicket win over Gujarat in their last league match.
Taking on Kolkata in Qualifier 2, Hyderabad will once again be counting on their captain David Warner who has amassed 604 runs in 13 games to lead the list of top run-scorers in the tournament this season. On the other hand, Shikhar Dhawan’s form, that saw him score 468 runs so far, will also add muscle to their batting line-up.
If Warner leads the charts with his explosive batting, Hyderabad have found an equally efficient player in their bowling department. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is currently enjoying the form of his life with 25 wickets in 13 games to his name. The right-arm seamer boasts of a four-wicket lead over the Unadkat who is second in the list of top wicket-takers this season.
Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR)
If the league stage was anything to go by, Kolkata would surely be disappointed with a fourth-place finish in the IPL table this season. Despite some crunching victories, the KKR somehow stuttered and failed to finish in the top two which makes their position of making the finals a little tricky.
After a convincing 10-wicket win over Gujarat in their opening game, Kolkata were handed their first loss this season by Mumbai. They got their campaign back on track with three consecutive wins before losing one to Gujarat. But it was their narrow loss to Mumbai in their last league match that truly hurt their chances of finishing in the top two.
As a unit, Kolkata surely looks like a title contender this season. With Manish Pandey (396 runs) and Robin Uthappa (386 runs), the Gautam Gambhir side boasts of a competitive batting line-up. But, the recent batting collapses will undoubtedly be on the back of their mind as they gear up for the play-offs.
In the bowling department, both Chris Woakes (17 wickets) and Umesh Yadav (14 wickets) have been on song for their team so far. And, going into the Qualifier 2 against Hyderabad, Kolkata will need to stop Warner and his men to keep themselves in the hunt of making the tournament’s final.
Well, all in all, both the clashes (in Qualifier 1 and Qualifier 2) promise to be an exciting affair. While Mumbai will take on Pune in Qualifier 1 on 16 May, Hyderabad will lock horns with mighty Kolkata in Qualifier 2 on 17 May.
So, whatever your plans, we reckon you make your schedule scarce to witness four IPL heavyweights in action as India’s cash-rich T20 spectacle comes to a close.