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Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata - Who will win?

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IPL_Indian_Premier_LeagueThe stage is set for the playoffs of IPL 10. Mumbai Indians will face Rising Pune Supergiant in Mumbai in the 1st qualifier. Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders will have to settle for the eliminator, to be played at Bangalore. 

KKR were unable to remain in top 2 when they let the victory slip away from them in their final game. RPS thrashed Kings XI Punjab to secure the 2nd place, giving them a second chance to qualify should a bad day spoil their 1st qualifier. Let’s see how the tournament has progressed for these sides and their strength & weaknesses. 

1. Mumbai Indians: Mumbai have never had a better start than this. After losing the first to Smith’s RPS, they won their next 8 matches. It was RPS again who checked their chariot. MI finished as the table toppers for the second time in the history of IPL.

Strengths: Mumbai’s strength is their deep batting. It looks in great shape despite a poor run from Rohit Sharma and Jos Buttler’s departure. Parthiv Patel is batting well and Kieron Pollard has his form back. Mumbai found a new star in Nitish Rana and so powerful is their batting that Ambati Rayudu couldn’t find a place once he has recovered from the injury. 

Their bowling is also in good shape despite Malinga’s bad form. Harbhajan has conceded under 6 an over and Bumrah bowled to his potential, slowly becoming a great death bowler. The Pandya brothers are batting and bowling well playing according to their strengths and the game plan.

Weaknesses: The form of Rohit Sharma is a worry for Mumbai. In this season, he played only 3 significant innings. His weakness against leg spinners and left arm bowlers has been exploited, getting out to them 6 times. Mumbai also likes to chase; their batsmen often struggle to maintain a healthy run rate while batting first as they seem to confuse whether to attack or to keep wickets in hand in order to launch an attack later. 

Lasith Malinga’s form is a shocker for MI this season. So far, his economy is 10.20 runs per over, easily his worst in an IPL. MI also has to deal with the inconsistent form of Mitchell McClenaghan. 

MI should play Mitchell Johnson in place of Malinga as Johnson bowled well whenever he got a chance to play and Rayudu should replace Rana, who has lost his form in the second half of the tournament.

2. Rising Pune Supergiant: Pune gained momentum in the second half and won the seven of their last eight completed games. Pune finished at no 2 after outclassing Kings XI in the must-win final game of the group stage. 

Strengths: Pune has one of the best balanced sides in this IPL. They have Smith and Rahul Tripathi at the top, Tiwary in the middle and Dhoni and Christian as finishers. Rahul Tripathi is a good find of this IPL. Pune found a good seam option in Unadkat who is second highest wicket taker behind Sunrisers’ Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Ben Stokes has proved himself worthy of his price.

Weaknesses: The main problem for Pune is the form of Ajinkya Rahane and MS Dhoni. Rahane has not lived up to the expectation and Dhoni is now at far from his best. Pune also has to deal with their bowling as Tahir & Stokes have departed for national duty. The bad form of Rahane & Dhoni means that Pune are vulnerable at the top and in middle overs. Adam Zampa can be a replacement of Tahir but his economy would be a concern for Pune.

3. Sunrisers Hyderabad: Sunrisers hold of both the orange and the purple cap. David Warner is the highest run scorer and Bhuvneshwar Kumar is highest wicket taker so far. 

Strengths: Dhawan and Warner are the most successful batsmen this season securing top 2 positions on the batsmen list. One of them has always scored runs if the other got out early. The duo has added 621 runs together, with 2 century and 3 half century partnerships. They are capable of providing a solid start on which hitters like Yuvraj and Henriques can thrive. Sunrisers also have the best seamer and the best spinner of the season. Rashid Khan has exceeded expectations and earned praise from the legends in the commentary box. Siddharth Kaul and Siraj Khan are also bowling well.

Weaknesses: They have no obvious weakness except the slow start of Dhawan sometimes, but they have hitters who can negotiate that. All that’s left is consistency.

4. Kolkata Knight Riders: Kolkata missed the chance to remain in top 2 by losing to MI in their last game. Had they won, they would be 2nd. But they have to settle for 4th.

Strengths: The batting line up of Kolkata is filled with big hitters, like Chris Lynn, Robin Utthapa, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan & Colin de Grandhomme, who can single-handedly change the course of a game. They also have the skilful captaincy of Gambhir. His use of bowlers and field placements has been spot on. Sunil Narine is getting more attention for his batting than his bowling this season, especially after scoring the fastest IPL fifty. Their bowling is composed and they have a lot of options to choose from.

Weaknesses: Their biggest worry is their lower/middle order batting, who often lose the plot. Umesh Yadav can be a real pain if he has gone for a few runs. He is the culprit of giving too many lose deliveries either bowling down the leg side or offering too much width. 

The first qualifier will be played between MI and RPS at Mumbai. Parthiv Patel, Jasprit Bumrah and Harbhajan Singh are confirmed back in the side. It is left to be seen whether MI bring Rana back or stick with Rayudu. Pune will have to change the winning combination which beat Punjab due to the absence of Stokes.

SRH will play KKR in the eliminator at Bengaluru. It would be difficult for Kane Williamson to find a place unless Sunrisers choose to strengthen their batting on a re-laid Bengaluru surface, which has been surprisingly bowler-friendly this season. Kolkata need to rethink about their opening pair. They have very good batsmen at the top like Gambhir, Lynn and Uthappa. There is no need to take a gamble in the form of Narine. Gambhir is better as an opener than a no. 3 in T20s.

In the past, the team that has topped the table has never won the tournament. Will history repeat itself, or will MI break the trend?

 

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