IPL 2013: The race for the top four intensifies

The Mumbai Indians (above) have probably been the most star-studded side in all six editions of the IPL. However, they are still chasing their first elusive IPL title. Just when they finally seemed to have beaten pangs of inconsistency and won three matches in a row, the Sunrisers swooped in and pegged them back © IANS

By Prakash Govindasreenivasan

The Sunrisers Hyderabad clipped the wings of high-flying Mumbai Indians to register their fourth win in four home games at Hyderabad on Wednesday. In the process, they have sparked a six-way battle in the race to the top four.

Before the start of the match, the Mumbai Indians were at the fourth spot 12 points from nine matches, while the Sunrisers were one spot below at fifth with 10 points from nine games. The Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Rajasthan Royals occupied the second and third spot respectively, both with 12 points each. A win for the Sunrisers made them the fourth side on the points table with 12 points, with only Net Run Rate separating them.

At the top of the table, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings have some breathing space as they have 16 points from 10 matches. However, if the Kings XI Punjab manage to pull off a victory over the table toppers on Thursday, the fight to the finish could intensify further.

Among these teams, Rajasthan Royals are slightly better placed, having played one game lesser than the Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Sunrisers Hyderabad. All of these teams need a minimum of three victories from their remaining fixtures to secure a place in the eliminators. In such a situation, the results of the fixtures involving two out of these four teams could have a major impact. It will be cruel to miss the bus on the basis of Net Run Rate but even that could come into play if these teams end their group stage on similar points.

Royal Challengers Bangalore

The Virat Kohli-led side have three challenging fixtures out of the remaining six. While they will be hoping to do a double over the bottom three teams of the league — Pune Warriors India, Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata Knight Riders — they will have to raise their game against the dominant Chennai Super Kings at home. They are yet to play against the Kings XI Punjab who are currently at the sixth spot but could threaten to hijack a top four spot with a spirited performance towards the end of the league stage.  

Rajasthan Royals

The Rajasthan Royals have been the silent operators of this season and have notched up good wins as they look to emulate their form from 2008. They have the luxury of playing one extra fixture than the other top four aspirants. Their most important matches include their home game against CSK and the away ties against the Mumbai Indians, the Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Kings XI Punjab. They will hope to shrug off their loss to the beleaguered Pune Warriors and register an important win against them. They also face Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens and Delhi Daredevils at home in must-win encounters. Despite having beaten the Sunrisers at home, they could be tested at a ground where the home side is yet to lose in this year.
 

Mumbai Indians

The Mumbai Indians have probably been the most star-studded side in all six editions of the IPL. However, they are still chasing their first elusive IPL title. Just when they finally seemed to have beaten pangs of inconsistency and won three matches in a row, the Sunrisers swooped in and pegged them back. They face a Herculean task to sustain in the top four as they have four difficult matches out of six. They go up against Chennai Super Kings at home, who will be eager to extend their winning spree. Their season-defining ties will be against the Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Rajasthan Royals at home and a tricky away fixture at Mohali against the Kings XI Punjab. In between the grueling games, they will hope to beat the Kolkata Knight Riders and Pune Warriors India and pick up four definite points.

Sunrisers Hyderabad

The Sunrisers Hyderabad have had a dream start to life in the IPL. Not many would have backed them fight for top honours at the start of the tournament. Yet, they find themselves battling it out for a coveted spot in the top four of the points table. However, it will not come easily to them. They may have regained some ground after a win against the Mumbai Indians at home, but are yet to face them at the Wankhede stadium. They also play hosts to Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals — both of who have already beaten the Hyderabad side before this year. The Sunrisers will hope to keep their home form intact when they host the Delhi Daredevils. They will also look to pick up two points against Gautam Gambhir’s Kolkata Knight Riders.

Kings XI Punjab 

Kings XI Punjab need to win one game more than all of the above to stand a chance to qualify for the next stage. The Adam Gilchrist-led side have the reputation of catching up late in the tournament and cannot be discounted at this stage.

Amidst all this, if the likes of Kolkata Knight Riders, Delhi Daredevils and the Pune Warriors pull off a victory over any of the above, the equations could undergo further change.

Impact of Net Run-Rate

Even if the Chennai Super Kings maintain their position at the top of the table, the race to the top four is going to be an intense one with three out of the above five taking the second, third and fourth spot. This closely-contested battle could also bring in Net Run Rate into play.

In such a scenario, the Sunrisers could be the worst sufferers as they are the only side in the top six to have their Net Run Rate in negative. The Royal Challengers Bangalore, Mumbai Indians and the Rajasthan Royals have all notched up big wins in the tournament so far and have a healthy NRR. With the possibility of NRR playing such a big role, the team management will keep have their watchful eyes on the margin of their victories and defeats in the upcoming matches.

Exciting times ahead…

Points Table (position after the conclusion of Wednesday’s matches)

Teams M W L T N/R P NRR

Chennai 10 8 2 0 0 16 0.73

Bangalore 10 6 4 0 0 12 0.69

Rajasthan 9 6 3 0 0 12 0.58

Mumbai 10 6 4 0 0 12 0.13

Hyderabad 10 6 4 0 0 12 -0.1

Punjab 9 4 5 0 0 8 0.17

Kolkata 10 3 7 0 0 6 -0.1

Delhi 10 3 7 0 0 6 -0.6

Pune 10 2 8 0 0 4 -1.43

 

(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is an Editorial consultant at CricketCountry and a sports fanatic, with a soft corner for cricket. After studying journalism for two years, came the first big high in his professional life – the opportunity to interview his hero Adam Gilchrist and talking about his magnificent 149 in the 2007 World Cup final. While not following cricket, he is busy rooting for Chelsea FC)