It has been an intriguing IPL season, where proceedings began with new outfit Rising Pune Super-Giants beating defending champions Mumbai Indians at Mumbai on the first day on April 9, 2016. Many people thought that Mahendra Singh Dhoni will emulate his past genius in leading the new side, packed with a number of ex-CSK stars and end up as a strong contender. That didn’t happen and RPS are already out of the playoff reckoning. The same thing happened to Kings XI Punjab, who exited title contention with a loss to Sunrisers Hyderabad last week. Thus only six teams are now left for the last four playoff spots in this year’s Indian Premier League. On Wednesday, riding on another scintillating knock from the irrepressible Virat Kohli, Royal Challengers Bangalore jumped to no.2 in the points’ table. They were no.7, just six days ago. But huge victories in their last three matches have made them the likely champions this season. Except Sunrisers Hyderabad, no team has won more than 7 matches so far and on current standings, SRH and RCB look most likely to enter the Final Four. That leaves Gujarat Lions, Delhi Daredevils, Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians fighting for the last two playoff spots. Of these, defending champions MI look the most vulnerable as they have just one more must-win match left against Gujarat Lions at Kanpur. If MI lose that game, they go out of contention straightaway because 7 points from 14 matches will not be enough to take them to playoffs. The next few days will clear the air about the Final Four. Only one thing is certain; no matter who emerges the IPL winner in this edition, Virat Kohli will end up as the Player-of-IPL-2016 with 4 centuries this season and the first player to cross 4000 runs in IPL.
The league phase of 2016 Indian Premier League is reaching its climax with four teams have their last games coming up and the other four needing to play two more games. With Rising Pune Super-giants and King XI Punjab having already exited, it is now a battle among six teams for the four playoff berths. The best placed team at this time is Sunrisers Hyderabad with 16 points and two more games yet to be played. They already look like having one foot into the playoff stage. RCB have made an amazing leap by winning last three of their matches and if they win their 14th game, they will be through as well. Kolkata Knight Riders have two games left and they are cozily placed to make the cut with just one victory. However, KKR’s two games are expected to be tough. They play Gujarat Lions next and SRH thereafter. Since KKR’s net-run-rate or NRR at +0.280 is quite good, they can also enter the playoffs without winning if all other teams are also tied at 14 points. Delhi Daredevils also have two games left and on paper, they look the most vulnerable with 12 points from 12 games. This is because their next two games are against SRH and RCB; both formidable opponents.
RCB have just one game left against DD and if they carry their current momentum into that match, Virat Kohli’s team will sail into the playoffs. New IPL team Gujarat Lions have lost their way after a dream start. Their next opponents are KKR and Mumbai Indians. The worst that happened to Gujarat was their 144-run loss against RCB. That has brought down their NRR and they may lose in a tie for that reason. Therefore GL must win both their matches to enter the playoffs. Mumbai Indian’s loss to Kings XI Punjab on May 13 could be their undoing, since, of all the teams, MI have the worst NRR. But if they could beat GL in their last tie, MI could enter the playoff stage. Mumbai Indians have played inconsistently this season and despite a good bowling attack, they have been let down by their batsmen. Unfortunately two of MI’s defeats have come against the teams that have already exited the playoff contention.
While the next few days will reveal the four teams that make the cut into the Knock-Out stage, no one can take away the player-of-IPL-2016 tag from the inimitable Virat Kohli. Leading RCB from the front, Kohli has notched up four dominant centuries this season. His 865 runs from 13 matches also include 5 fifties. Already branded by media as the milestone-man, Kohli became the first batsman in IPL history to cross 800 runs in a single season. Kohli broke the earlier record of 733 runs held by his West Indian teammate Chris Gayle. That was in 2014 but Gayle had taken 14 matches to do so while Kohli has one more match still left. On Wednesday, Kohli also went past Suresh Raina’s figure of 3985 runs in IPL and became the only man to cross 4000 runs in IPL’s history.