Kings XI Punjab threw a spanner in Kolkata Knight Riders’ works last night with a mind-boggling Gayle-storm that took the world on a nostalgic trip down the lane. That changed the race to playoffs scenario by quite some mile with the teams now having their set of challenges to overcome.
Clash for table-toppers or is it?
This is an interesting conundrum with Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Capitals having a game left with each other with each one of them playing one game against Sunrisers Hyderabad. It can potentially change the dynamics for the top two spots, who will have two cracks to make it to the final. Given all top three teams are playing a game against each other, it means one of them will be moving to 16 points. One team will be stuck on 16 and depending on the result against Hyderabad, two of them can potentially reach 18 and 20 points, ensuring a place in the first Qualifiers in the play-offs.
However, there is a worst-case scenario awaiting them in line if any of the three teams lose their next three games. In such a scenario, the said team will be stuck at 14 points with the other two ending up with 16 or more points. That means NRR will come into effect for the team with 14 points, creating a ruckus.
Mumbai Indians, who have +1.252 NRR can afford to do that, and thanks to their superior NRR, they will be the third or fourth team to qualify but will have to play the eliminator. But in case Royal Challengers Bangalore suffer the same, they might lose out to either KXIP, KKR, SRH, or even RR realistically, thanks to their sub-par NRR. So the teams will desperately try to avoid that conflict and secure at least two wins from their last three games.
The Kings’ route to success
A win over KKR last night has made things simpler for the KL Rahul-led franchise who will now need a couple of wins from their remaining games to secure a berth in the playoffs without having to worry about the results of other games. They are now in fourth place on the points table, with equal points as KKR, but their NRR is superior. In case Punjab win the last two games, KKR winning their remaining encounters won’t make a difference to the side they lost to in Sharjah last night.
However, if Punjab lose one of their remaining games against RR or CSK - the same opponents as KKR - it will spell trouble for them. In such a scenario, Punjab can only get to 14 points, giving KKR a chance to redeem themselves and rise to 16 points by beating both RR and CSK. NRR will come into play as Punjab will hope for one of MI, DC or RCB to lose all of their games - they will prefer RCB who have a rather bad NRR - so they can qualify on that basis.
In case Punjab lose both of their games, they will be stuck at 12 points and that situation would bring Sunrisers Hyderabad into the picture. First, KXIP will have to hope KKR lose both of their games and Sunrisers Hyderabad don’t win all three of their games. It would mean RR beating KKR will match their points with KXIP and SRH don’t get to 14 points. NRR will come into effect and one of SRH and KXIP will go through depending on who has a better NRR at that stage.
Can the Knights pull up their socks?
Kolkata have done no good to their chances after losing to Kings XI Punjab and have slipped to the fifth place due to their negative run-rate. Two wins in the last two games can take their tally to 16 points but that alone doesn’t guarantee them a spot in the play-offs. As discussed in the above point, a couple of wins for Kings XI Punjab will ensure them being out of the race, realistically, but there is still hope, albeit a tough one.
If both Punjab and KKR win their last two games, then both teams will end up at 16 points, with the hope that one of the top three teams - once again preferably RCB - to lose all of their remaining games. In such case, they will qualify along with Punjab but have to beat CSK and RR in bigger margins to boost their NRR. But the run-rate mess-up they created at the beginning of the tournament might put them off.
This year’s IPL is not a story of two sections as it was last year in which three teams secured 18 points and three teams secured 12 points, letting Sunrisers qualify for the play-offs on the basis of higher NRR. The story is pretty sordid this time, especially for Rajasthan Royals who are looking to disrupt the pot with the help of some outside chance.
With two games remaining against Kings XI and Knight Riders, they can reach a maximum of 14 points but will be tied on the same point with more than two teams. NRR will come into play but the Royals need to remember that they have a very bad NRR, overcoming which will need them beating KXIP and KKR by a more than handsome margin. A loss, however, would mean the end of the campaign for the inaugural edition champions.
Will the Sun rise for the Sunrisers?
If I have to give a straight answer, it is NO. But this is IPL. Anything can happen. So let’s exploit the conditions that might align SRH in an upward direction. Sitting at the seventh position on the points table, just above CSK with an equal number of wins, they will now have to win all three of their games, against RCB, MI and DC, so as to get to 14 points and hope other results fall their way. If one of the top three teams ends up with 14 points, their positive run-rate will help them crash into it but they should boost their NRR in their Sharjah games. A loss, however, would mean the end of the story.