24th May: Mumbai Indians v R. Royals, 14:30 GMT
24th-28th May: 2nd Test, Headingley
The stage is set for the semi-finals of the IPL but no one seems to be talking about this aspect of cricket. Somewhere in the backdrop of the raging fire that that IPL-Kochi franchise-Lalit Modi controversy has become, there are four teams that will be preparing in Mumbai, hoping that when the dust settles down they will be the ones holding that gold-plated trophy.
Despite fanatical Kolkata fans desperately hallucinating situations on Monday wherein their team would qualify magically, it was only as late as Sunday that we got to know who the four teams will be. Mumbai Indians were the only ones assured until then. Bangalore Royal Challengers managed to shoot themselves in the foot on Saturday and were dependent on Chennai beating Punjab, and nearly eliminating Kolkata Knight Riders. And then there were Deccan Chargers and Delhi Daredevils – both hell bent on gifting each other the last semi-final spot.
In the end, as it turned out, their shoddy play in their last league match was enough for Bangalore to qualify. Thanks in no less terms to MS Dhoni who realised in the last over at Dharamsala that he could still hit the ball miles. Later Deccan almost committed hara-kiri, setting just 140-odd as target before Delhi beat them to it – the suicide that is.
After all the drama of the last couple of weeks – the on-field one – it is right to say that the four most consistent teams have gotten into the semis, if not the four best on paper. Except for maybe Mumbai Indians whose form has been soaring from day one, the others had it pretty mixed up with Delhi, Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders. When the table is bunched up so close, consistency is what matters and the three teams who didn’t make it will agree that is one aspect where they were lacking.
Delhi just couldn’t get a consistent run of form from their top order; Yusuf Pathan was the only threat Rajasthan ever had this season and if he ever becomes consistent, then bowlers may as well collectively retire; and, Kolkata – well what can you say about a side that scores 200 in 20 overs and cannot defend it, that too at a fortress that is the Eden Gardens? Probably that they don’t deserve to be in the semis, just like the Kings XI side who also 'achieved' a similar feat.
While these three teams were busy tripping themselves up, Bangalore had the time to sort out their mess in team selection and going forward will realise that playing Kevin Pietersen in the eleven is always going to pay more dividends than one Cameron White, especially when foreign players are at a premium. Deccan Chargers deserve to be in the semis on the back of their five-match winning run alone, while Chennai – although in patches – did manage to find the confidence and form that took them into the last four for the last two years. And here they are again.
The semis can be a lottery though and there have been suggestions that this doesn’t help a side like Mumbai who have done all the hard work over the past two months and could lose it if they have just the one bad day. But then again, hasn’t it been about being consistent enough to not let such days affect you? As aforementioned, the semi-finals’ stage is set.
© Cricket World 2010
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