Four weeks into the 2013 Indian Premier League and the knock-outs’ picture is beginning to take shape. If you compare it with 2012, it isn’t a close run thing.
At this stage last season, there were seven teams vying for four spots. A year later, things have evolved a little bit more, with only five teams in the fray now and a sixth with an outside chance.
Having faced defeat this past week, Pune Warriors and Delhi Daredevils are out of contention for a top-four spot. It means different things for both franchises, yet it is hard to tell which the bigger disaster is.
Pune have never been in contention the three seasons they have been part of the IPL. They have been mired in one controversy after another, starting from retaining players to walking out of auctions for non-replacement of Yuvraj Singh to picking and then unpicking Sourav Ganguly and not getting a replacement for him.
They have a young side, which is thriving on T20 talent, yet a lack of experienced hand has complicated matters for them. Next year’s auction cannot come soon enough.
Delhi were laid low by injuries at the start of the season and never really recovered from there. Even so, their troubles can go back to the decision of not retaining Gautam Gambhir in 2010-11. He has led Kolkata Knight Riders admirably (never mind recent results) and Delhi’s leadership travails of bouncing between Virender Sehwag and Mahela Jayawardene haven’t really solved anything. Not to mention, they would have got an extra senior batsman to lead their batting charge, not relying on a foreign combination all the time.
Coming back to Kolkata though, they are different from Delhi and Pune in that they have all players readily available to them and leadership issues well sorted out. It is just that they expected this year-old plans to carry them to another championship winning charge.
A year is a long time in cricket and it is an even longer duration when you consider T20 cricket. Jacques Kallis has obviously got older and slower, and they have Ryan ten Doeschate sitting on the bench. Not to mention, while Eden Gardens is a slow-turner and plays to their strengths, it becomes a level-playing ground when they go away from their home ground, hurting their strengths.
With eight points and just five games remaining they are not out of it just yet, trailing fourth-placed Rajasthan Royals and fifth-placed Mumbai Indians by four points.
Another defeat may definitely put them out, it is that close in the table. It comes down to travelling away from home, not only for them, but also for Kings XI Punjab. In fact it does for every time, because one of the key aspects of this 2013 IPL have been the unbeaten home runs.
As many as four teams haven’t lost at home yet. Rajasthan Royals, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore have all fortified their home grounds and it is no surprise that they are all in contention.
Going forward it will not only be about who fends off further challenges at home, but also who puts forth the best foot forward when travelling away. Rajasthan have as many as three away games, traveling to Mohali, Mumbai and Hyderabad, as also hosting Chennai and Delhi at home.
Mumbai will host Kolkata, Rajasthan and Hyderabad, traveling away to Pune and Mohali. Bangalore go to Delhi and Kolkata, whilst playing Kings XI and Chennai in their own backyard.
Kings XI will host Bangalore, Rajasthan, Delhi and Mumbai, while traveling to Hyderabad. The Sunrisers meanwhile have all five tough matches, taking on Chennai, Rajasthan and Kolkata at home, and traveling to Mohali and Mumbai. It will be a run-in that will see many fated twists and turns before the battle for the top-four spots is settled down.
Away from all this, Chennai will play three away games to Hyderabad, Rajasthan and Bangalore, in between hosting the hapless Delhi Daredevils.
There is a bit of expectancy about their play right now. Mike Hussey is getting runs at the top, Suresh Raina is starting to flow as the second half of the tournament has arrived and MS Dhoni is at his destructive best. The bowling is in good hands of Chris Morris and R Ashwin, with Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo doing their bits.
They are sitting pretty at 18 points and just one win should suffice to take them through, even if not in the top spot. Yet, they will not be taking it easy, and the run-rate crushing loss to Mumbai Indians on Sunday afternoon will have come as a timely wake-up call.
© Cricket World 2013
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