So, the IPL is all set for the playoffs. We bring you an analysis of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the teams that made it.
Mumbai Indians (MI):
By far, the form team in the league stages, they will be the one to beat in the playoffs.
Strengths: With Parthiv Patel and Lendl Simmons providing impetus at the top, the big-hitting middle-order gets a good platform. Nitish Rana at No. 3 has been in terrific form. This has helped the big hitters like Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya express themselves. In the bowling, Jasprit Bumrah, the man with the ungainly action, has mixed yorkers with slower ones to great effect in the end overs. Add Lasith Malinga, an economical Harbhajan Singh and the wicket-taking Mitch McClenaghan to the mix and you have a feared bowling attack.
Weaknesses: The team seemed to be running out of steam in the final stages of the qualifiers. Rohit Sharma, coming back from injury, has not yet recovered full form. But the big stage may yet see him come to the party. Rana too after a brilliant start to the tournament has fizzled out towards the end stages.
Opportunities: Mumbai will have the home advantage as they take on neighbours Pune at the Wankhede. They also have great bench strength, which they showed off against KKR.
Threats: Mumbai will be wary of RPS who have trumped them in both their encounters this season.
Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR):
Another formidable team during the league stages, they slipped towards the end and were unable to finish in the top two.
Strengths: Gautam Gambhir’s captaincy and contributions with the bat, Sunil Narine’s pinch-hitting and Chris Lynn’s explosive batting at the top of the order. In addition, they have a good all-round team, with Robin Uttappa seemingly ready for a big one. Umesh Yadav is India’s most improved limited overs’ bowler and Narine is still tricky with the ball and can bowl in the power plays.
Weaknesses: Here a strength may also become a weakness. Narine may falter on the big stage and some quick wickets at the top may stymie KKR’s batting. Also besides Yadav and Narine, the other bowlers could be targeted by the big-hitters in the opposition.
Opportunities: A well-balanced side with firepower both in batting and bowling. Gautam Gambhir has marshalled his resources superbly.
Threats: KKR looked all set to top the table but have lost their way in the last two matches and SRH will be a tough opponent in the first qualifier.
Last year’s champs are aiming for the top again.
Strengths: David Warner’s consistent big-hitting at the top and immersive captaincy, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar’s swing, guile and wicket-taking ability and Rashid Khan’s whippy, tricky leg-spin. These three are the strengths around which a competent team has punched above its weight to remain in the play-offs.
Weaknesses: Big names Yuvraj Singh and Kane Williamson have sparkled occasionally but may yet hit form on the big stage. The bowling like KKR is a two-horse trick -- the others could be targeted.
Opportunities: Sunrisers are peaking at the right time. They have now won four games on the trot.
Threats: If Warner goes early, Sunrisers batting may be tested.
Rising Pune Supergiant:
Steve Smith’s team have quietly made their way to the top two, and are one win away from the final.
Strengths: Ben ’14-crore’ Strokes’ all-round awesomeness and Steve Smith’s unorthodox fluency. With Strokes as the talisman, a modest team has made the most of its talents to claw into the pay-offs. Rahul Tripathi has been a real find. And Jaydev Unadkat a revelation, coming second only to Bhuvi in the wicket-taking leaderboard.
Weaknesses: No Stokes for the playoffs is a critical blow. M S Dhoni, for all his amazing glovework, seems finished as the finisher. Imran Tahir’s feisty leg-spin will be missed. Ajinkya Rahane has really not made an impact.
Opportunities: RPS have squeezed through to the top 2 at the last minute, and face a team they have already beaten twice in the first qualifier.Threats:
Their bowling, without Stokes and Tahir, lacks penetration, even though they managed to skittle out KXIP in their do-or-die match on Sunday.