Photo credit: BCCI.
The race to the playoffs in the seventh season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) enters its final lap today with each team having played nine matches and left with five to play.
While the top two positions on the leaderboard seem more or less set to be decided between Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings, the mid-table battle is what to look forward to in the next 10 days.
Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings have played a fair notches above the rest, and with 14 points each, they need just another win to confirm themselves as top-four finishers. But looking at their form, it seems unlikely that they will settle for anything less than the No. 1 or 2 unless a slump hits them in the coming week.
Rajasthan Royals have been at their resolute best occupying the No. 3 position with 12 points from six wins. If anybody, it's RR who can spoil CSK and KXIP's top-two plans.
The race is really tight for the fourth spot, which could end up as a four-way fight between Kolkata Knight Riders, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
KKR and SRH are at the fourth and fifth position respectively with eight points each, followed by defending champions MI and RCB at No. 6 and 7 respectively with six.
Talking about the title-holders first, Mumbai's chances appear slimmer. MI play best in the home comfort of Wankhede Stadium, but of the remaining five matches, they will play only two at home and three away. So that brings the equation against their playoffs qualification.
Of the remaining three - KKR, SRH and RCB, Kolkata look the best bet to make it to the playoffs considering their all-round ability and balance in the squad, and most importantly the leadership of experienced Gautam Gambhir.
SRH captain Shikhar Dhawan and RCB skipper Virat Kohli have looked at sea when it comes to captaincy. Also, after an initial slump, Gambhir has started to lead from the front with match-winning contributions, while Kohli and Dhawan are still struggling for runs.
That leaves Delhi Daredevils at rock bottom, and with seven defeats in nine games, it seems a distance too long for Delhi to travel now.