So the tournament is towards its very business end – The Final. And it is between the two heavyweights of the game – Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings. While the entry of the latter was very much predictable given the team combo and the shimmery past, the former, Mumbai Indians, have bullied their way into a straight entry to the finals beating CSK in the first playoffs.
And with the finals on 24th, the 8th edition of the cash and glamour rich tournament is about to come to an end. With very little controversies surrounding this time around. Although, there were hues and cries for off field actions regarding the devaluation of CSk for demerger. Besides that it has been a cleaner IPL after a long time.
Moving on towards the on-field actions, this year’s IPL has been the most exciting so far in the history of the tournament with 3 of the 4 teams to qualify for plaoffs being decided by the last match of the league stage. With CSK qualifiyng first with utmost authority and dominance over the other teams, this edition saw a very competitive fight for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th position amongst 6 teams leaving the Kings XI Punjab at the bottom of the points table. Even Delhi Daredevils faltered before the very end of league stage.
But the real fight was between MI, RCB, RR, KKR and SRH. Every one had equal chances to qualify. KKR and SRH couldn’t keep their nerves. RR beat KKR in their backyard to qualify in a do or die situation for both the teams. They were boosted by a brilliant ton from Shane Watson. RCB needed just 1 point to qualify in their last match against DD and the rain gods made sure that they get only what’s required. MI qualified defeating SRH comprehensively by 9 wickets to enter the playoffs. And they were a big surprise finishing at 2nd on the basis of more wins after losing 4 straight games at the very beginning of their campaign. But then, they do posses the most elite and desirous caoching team.
Then came the playoffs and the first between the top 2 teams, CSK and MI took place at the Wankhede, Mumbai. Ironically, it was the home ground for the top placed team in the points table i.e. CSK. MI batted first and put on a good total on a flat track backed by the in-form Lendl Simmons and some power hitting in the end by Kieron Pollard. They then followed it up by a good bowling performance to restrict ‘the host’ 15 runs shorter. With Mccullum gone for the national duty in U.K., CSk found it hard in going through with the chase as both the openers fell cheaply to the MI’s pace duo.
Being in the top two gave CSK another chance to feature in the final. They had to face the winner of The Eliminator between RCB and RR. The second playoff turned out to be a tough contest between both the Royals as each had their chance during the course of the game. Batting first, RCB were jolted by twin blows from Dhawal Kulkarni as he removed both the openers in quick succession and with virtually nothing on the scoreboard. But a solid performances by young Mandeep and the experienced AB ensured they had a good total on the board. RCB managed to extract 86 runs of the last six overs to reach 180. This proved to be too much for RR as they never seem to be in the hunt. Barring Rahane, no other player showed the intent to stay at the crease for long and the team was bundled out for 109 in just 19 overs.
The third playoff was between CSK and RCB held in Ranchi, the home ground of captain cool, MSD. On a slow turning track, MSD opted to field first and as usually seen, he was spot on with Virat and AB back in the hut by the end of the 5th over. Chris Gayle showed some intent to play till the end but was jammed by the turning track and the willy spinners. He wasn’t given much freedom to express himself and perished to part timer Raina in a bid to hit three consecutive sixes for a below 100 strike rate. RCB could just manage 139 on the board. CSK too started on a low. They lost DR Smith early to Srinath Arvind. However, the 39-year-old Australian veteran Mike Hussey had some other plans. He, along with Faf Du Plessis kept the scoreboard ticking. But this was not enough as the young leggy Yuzvendra Chahl dismissed Faf in his second over and Raina just two balls later in the same over. Then came the local boy, MSD. He played with caution initially taking ones and twos without any risk. The game was very much over before Mitchell Starc gave two back to back blows in his last over. With MSD at the striker’s end needing 5 runs in the penultimate over, CSK reached home easily with 3 wickets to spare ensuring the final with arch rivals MI at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday.
The final seems to be evenly poised with both the teams peaking at the right time. MI are in red-hot form with both their batting and bowling openers giving notable contributions and good support from the middle order. CSK are anytime favourites and even with Mccullum gone and Raina not upto his usual best, they seem a packed side with a bunch of match winners on any given day. One just hopes the contest to be thrilling and worthy of being called the final.