The 9th edition of the Indian Premier league has almost reached its mid-point will all teams playing at least six matches. The suspension of the most consistent team , Chennai Super Kings and the dark horses, Rajasthan Royals have definitely caused a stir among the fans. However, the division of the key players from both teams into new entrants Rising Pune Supergiants and Gujarat Lions have seen some royalties being shifted to the latter teams. We have been observing the teams from day one and have captured a fair idea about each team’s strengths and weaknesses. With this information, we predict the IPL points table to look like this, at the end of all group stage matches:-
#1 Gujarat Lions
What a debut this has been for the new team from Rajkot. They picked up the consistent Raina as captain and added the quirky Jadeja, Champion Bravo and Faulkner to support him. Except the disastrous performance against Hyderabad, the Lions have been the most consistent team in this edition. The McCullum-Smith opening partnership has further enhanced this side’s strength. The plus for the lions has been the street smart captaincy by Suresh Raina. They have played good all- round cricket to be table toppers , though their last match to the bottom placed Kings XI came as a surprise.
#2 Kolkata Knightriders
KKR started on a consistent note, thanks to their openers Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa. They have lost the last couple of matches to Delhi and Mumbai, but they have just one more away game and the rest are at home. SRK’s men have an exceptional record at Eden Gardens and are expected to cement their spot in the top 2. However, they’ll need their middle order to contribute more and reduce the pressure on their openers. Shakib Al Hasan’s form has been a worry for the team and they would need more pinch hitting from Andre Russell. The home advantage is going to let KKR ease their spot in the top four.
#3 Delhi Daredevils
Surprised to see this team at number 3? The appointment of former India skipper and batting legend Rahul Dravid as mentor has worked wonders for this team. After a poor start against KKR, the Delhi Daredevils registered some top-notch performances against the formidable Royal Challenger’s Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders. Zaheer Khan is turning out to be a surprise captain with some unorthodox field settings, especially against Gujarat lions. The addition of Sam Billings to the squad might just be the batting consistency that DD needed. Their bowling at the death has been tremendous and Amit Mishra is swinging yet another great season. There have been specific contributions from Quinton de Kock, Samson, Karun and Chris Morris too. However, Delhi are yet to find their right partnership at the opening wicket and there have been frequent changes in the starting lineup for different games. That aside, this team banking on young Indian talent and lesser known stars might just script history; courtesy Rahul Dravid. The Dravid stamp is very much visible like it was in Rajasthan Royals, Dravid made the Royals punch more above their weight and he seems to have exactly that with the Daredevils this year.
#4 Sunrisers Hyderabad
There could be a battle for the third and fourth spot between SRH, DD, MI and RCB, but going by the performances and the upcoming matches, SRH are favourites to bag the final spot in the top four. Historically, Hyderabad in the IPL has banked on its pace attack and this year seems no different. The genius Mustafizur, Bhuvi and veteran Nehra have been contributing very well. SRH is also the number one ranked team in the powerplay scores, courtesy captain David Warner.Moises Henriques has been decent with the bat and bowl, while Kane Williamson’s addition has strengthened the batting lineup, that is otherwise over reliant on the captain. Dhawan has shown glimpses of his capability but SRH might be one pinch hitter short for the crucial matches. The return of Yuvraj Singh could solve this problem. All said, will the Sunrisers fumble in their upcoming matches if they lose Warner early?
#5 Mumbai Indians
It might be possible for a team to lose a significant amount of matches in the beginning of the season and then go on to script a thriller and win the IPL. But does that happen twice and that too consecutively?. MI is still under the shadows of their emphatic comeback in the previous season and have been equally topsy-turvy in the points table of the current edition too. Rohit Sharma, Rayudu, McClenaghan, Bumrah and Southee have contributed well for their four wins, but they have four losses too. MI is an unpredictable team but having played most number of matches till now and considering their upcoming opponents, the boys from Wankhede might fall short of a finish in the top four. That said, they have a history of executing thrillers and let’s see if they can produce another blinder.
#6 Royal Challengers Bangalore
The strongest batting lineup on paper and on field is being let down by its poor bowling unit. This is RCB’s performance in this season, summed up in a single sentence. Virat Kohli and De Villiers have been exceptional with the bat, while the out of form Chris Gayle is ably replaced by Rahul. Batting is not their worry but the poor show by bowlers put them under pressure. Shane Watson has been decent with the bowl, along with new entrant Shamsi. RCB needs better death bowlers than Kane Richardson and Harshal Patel. It’s not too late for them to experiment with England’s death-overs specialist, Chris Jordan. If the gamble works, RCB can revive themselves from their poor run. For now, they are set for a bottom-half finish.
#7 Rising Pune Supergiants
Dhoni’s men have lost a couple of close matches but there are a lot of things to worry for this team. While Ajinkya Rahane has played a solid anchor at most occasions, he is yet to get a formidable attacking partner. Faf is also a batsman in the 120-130 strike rate range, while Steve Smith has made a recent surge in his acceleration rate. Dhoni needs to promote himself to give Pune the extra 15-20 runs, they require. R Ashwin is not having the best of seasons and RPS needs a stronger death bowler than Thisara Perera. KP’s injury is not turning out to be a ‘blessing in disguise’ as Dhoni hoped either. Murugan Ashwin has been impressive while Rajat Bhatia has been making his presence felt too. Will Ashok Dinda’s comeback be the extra pace attack that this team needed? All said, we know Dhoni’s reputation to make great comebacks but has it become too late?
#8 Kings XI Punjab
Punjab continues its poor run in this edition. Both their batting and bowling units haven’t been contributing consistently. Except for rare fifties at separate games from Vohra, Vijay and Marsh, the batting has been poorl. Mohit Sharma and Sandeep Sharma’s bowling can be termed above average at best, while the others showed no traces of good form. The captain, Miller himself is in poor form and has been replaced by Murali Vijay for the rest of the season. Can Vijay lead a comeback from the distant bottom and revive this ailing team? For now, Kings X1 are heading towards a bottom finish.