With just a couple of matches each to go for almost every franchise in IPL 9, the talk is firmly rooted to the permutations and combinations of which four teams will make it to the playoffs. Game changing and season defining decisions will have to be made by those teams in the hunt over the next four days with 6 of the 8 teams all in the hunt and even table toppers Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) not theoretically immune from elimination.
Of course, as far as the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) and Rising Pune Supergiants (RPSG) go, the only decisions are likely to concern what dips should accompany the chips they will be eating while watching the playoffs from the comfort of their homes. Cricking takes a look at what the other six need to do. (Teams listed as per their position in the table on 18th May 2016 before the RCB v KXIP match.)
1 Sunrisers Hyderabad (12 matches, 16 points)
Remaining fixtures: v Delhi Daredevils (A), Kolkata Knight Riders (A)
SRH just need one win out of two to make sure they are the table toppers and feature in the first qualifier (where the losing team gets another shot) but those two games are against desperate playoff hopefuls KKR and DD who have hit a bit of a skid. With 16 points already, SRH will almost certainly make it to the playoffs but they will be kicking themselves if it is not as one of the top 2 teams.
2 Kolkata Knight Riders (12 matches, 14 points)
Remaining fixtures: v Gujarat Lions (A), Sunrisers Hyderabad (H)
KKR can still finish top of the table if they win their last two games, but they have been inconsistent lately losing 2 out of their last 3 games; the RCB loss must have stung. The Gujarat Lions (GL) encounter will be crucial because it is in effect a “four pointer” – GL can pip them on the table with a win there. The game against SRH could be a straight shootout for either the first or second spot.
3 Mumbai Indians (13 matches, 14 points)
Remaining fixture: Gujarat Lions (A)
Among the teams bunched together at 14 points, Mumbai Indians (MI) have the least maneuverability with just one game left. To keep control of their destiny they simply have to beat the Gujarat Lions, otherwise they almost surely risk being pipped by either DD or RCB.
4 Gujarat Lions (12 matches, 14 points)
Remaining fixtures: Kolkata Knight Riders (H), Mumbai Indians (H),
Their heavy loss against RCB hurt the Lions’ run rate placing them in a precarious position after what had been a dominant start to the season. Their task is simple enough – recover from their horrendous skid (4 losses in the last 5) and beat the two direct playoff spot contenders they are facing and they can still finish as toppers.
5 Royal Challengers Bangalore (12 matches, 12 points)
Remaining fixture: Kings XI Punjab (H), Delhi Daredevils (A)
RCB have staged a remarkable comeback despite the woes in their bowling and now have playoff qualification in their own hands given how their run rate was boosted after big wins against GL and KKR. They simply have to beat KXIP and the game against DD is likely to be a straight out eliminator for that fourth spot. If they lose against KXIP, their hopes are dependent on other results.
6 Delhi Daredevils (12 matches, 12 points)
Remaining fixtures: Sunrisers Hyderabad (H), Royal Challengers Bangalore (H)
DD face a similar task as RCB’s – they just have to win their last two games to be in control of their playoff destiny. But their problem is that they are on a similar skid as GL – just a lone win in the last 5 games sandwiched by two losses on either side. Their run rate (-0.125) means they can’t afford a loss and are most likely to face a knockout situation against RCB in the last game of the regular season.