IPL 2023 | How the seven battling teams can qualify for playoffs

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It is that time of the year again when fans imbibe their inner Alan Turing and scan the table like they were in high school all over again. To make the study of permutations and combinations easier for you, this is a detailed breakdown of all the scenarios in which the various teams can qualify.

In the 16-year history of the Indian Premier League, never has there been a season as competitive as the 2023 edition with seven teams still in contention for the final three playoff spots and all to play for on the last four matchdays of the league stage. So far, only defending champions Gujarat Titans have managed to book their place in Qualifier 1 with the top spot guaranteed while Delhi Capitals and Sunrisers Hyderabad have suffered eliminations following harrowing campaigns. That leaves all of Chennai Super Kings, Lucknow Super Giants, Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Rajasthan Royals, Kolkata Knight Riders, and Punjab Kings right amidst the fight for making it to the knockout stages where there are hardly any favourites -- just teams that step up to the plate when the occasion demands them to and teams that don't. Here is what all these seven teams need to do in the final few rounds of the league phase to secure a playoff berth for themselves.

Chennai Super Kings

The Yellow Army have shrugged off last season's disappointment with a clinical showing in 2023 so far, winning seven of their 13 games to sit second with 15 points and a net run rate of 0.381, their record only bettered by the Titans. They will close off the league campaign with an encounter against struggling Delhi Capitals and should they win as expected, the side is virtually guaranteed a top-two finish and an ensuing Qualifier 1 clash against Gujarat. However, if they somehow end the league stage with a defeat, they can theoretically slip out of the top four but only if a plethora of matches go against them. Firstly, LSG will need to win their match against KKR; secondly, MI would need to defeat SRH in their upcoming clash; and thirdly, RCB would need to win both their remaining fixtures against SRH and GT to tally 16 points and leapfrog CSK.

Lucknow Super Giants

Despite losing skipper KL Rahul to injury in the second half of the season, LSG have coped well under Krunal Pandya to be placed third with 15 points and a net run rate of 0.304. While a win ensures them a spot in the Eliminator, with promotion to Qualifier 1 available if CSK lose against DC, a loss would have LSG in a precarious spot. A win for MI against SRH would be enough to take them over LSG and should RCB manage to defeat both GT and SRH, Lucknow would crash out of the top four while their rivals go through. Any other combination of results would leave the Ekana-dwellers safe as a house.

Mumbai Indians

The five-time champions have roared back to form after a disappointing start to the campaign, some unbelievable knocks by Suryakumar Yadav pushing them to fourth on the table with 14 points albeit with a terrible net run rate of -0.128. For starters, to keep their qualification hopes alive, MI pretty much need to win at any cost against SRH in their last clash of the league phase, since a loss would pave the path for either RR to overtake them if they defeat Punjab or for RCB to go ahead with a win in any of their two remaining fixtures. Now, even if MI win, there are no guarantees, largely owing to their NRR, but a solitary loss for CSK, LSG, or RCB in any of their remaining encounters would seal matters in Mumbai's favour.

Royal Challengers Bangalore

Amongst the seven battle outfits, RCB are the only team with two games to go as they currently sit fifth with 12 points and an impressive net run rate of 0.166. All the team needs to qualify is to win against SRH and GT since they would end up over MI with a better NRR despite having the same number of points, making all fixtures irrelevant. At the same time, consecutive losses would spell the end for Faf du Plessis and his men in the 2023 campaign. The most interesting scenario would occur if the team wins and loses a match each, making them end on 14 points. A win for Mumbai against SRH in such a situation would ensure their qualification over their southern rivals but even if Mumbai lose, Rajasthan could possibly end up leapfrogging RCB with a big victory over PBKS given their NRR of 0.140. Thus, the safest scenario for RCB is for both MI and RR to lose their respective final league stage clashes, since PBKS and KKR offer no threat due to their NRR even if they can match RCB's points tally.

Rajasthan Royals

Yashasvi Jaiswal's heroics have not been enough to save Rajasthan's sinking ship as they are positioned a despondent sixth with 12 points and a net run rate of 0.140. A win for MI against SRH or victories for RCB in their two remaining games would immediately end RR's journey in the season regardless of what they manage to do against Punjab Kings. Thus, while a win for RR and a loss for MI is an absolute necessity, the safest route for RR would be consecutive defeats for RCB as well but the side can still qualify if RCB win one and lose one game. In such a scenario, the margins of victory would come into play, since both RR and RCB would end up on 14 points and their net run rates at present are only separated by 0.026. The schedule hands RCB a slight edge since they are slated to play the last game of the regular season, against Gujarat, meaning they would be aware of exactly what needs to be done to make it to the top four.

Kolkata Knight Riders

The fact that KKR have managed to stay afloat after all the hiccups they have endured throughout the season is a testament to just how competitive IPL 2023 has been. However, they are only alive as a formality with their qualification hopes a foregone conclusion -- not because of their points haul of 12 points from 13 games but due to an abysmal NRR of -0.256. Even a win in their final game against LSG would only take them at par with MI, who have a much better NRR of -0.128. Should a huge win for KKR and a big loss for MI somehow see the former overtake the latter, Kolkata would still need RCB to lose both their remaining games as well as for Punjab Kings to defeat Rajasthan, since the former has an even worse NRR of -0.308.

Punjab Kings

The situation is incredibly even direr for Punjab Kings, as their all-or-nothing philosophy has fetched them 12 points but cost them an NRR of -0.308, resigning them to the eighth spot on the table. Even though they can mathematically make it through if they win against Rajasthan, it would require an unprecedented perfect storm to have them rise from eighth to fourth, featuring the following results -- a) MI lose to SRH by a big enough margin to slip behind PBKS; b) RCB lose both their games or win a close game while being humiliated in the other; and c) KKR lose to SRH such that PBKS ends up with a better NRR.

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