T20 League: Stage 2

Each of the 8 teams has played atleast 9 games, and we’re already into the last 10 days of the tournament. For many, it feels like the group stages just began, and the hype has been considerably less this edition as compared to previous years. The spotfixing drama that tainted the final stages of last year’s T20 league may not have been completely forgotten, for there are a noticeable number of empty seats in stadiums in Delhi and Hyderabad.

The group stages began on a limp note, and seem to be heading in a direction where only 1 qualifying spot will be fought for over the final 5 games for each team.

Punjab, Chennai and Rajasthan have pretty much sealed their spots with some dominating performances. It is down to Kolkata, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Bangalore for that 4th spot, with Delhi once again out of contention. There have been surprising developments, none more so than Bangalore’s total capitulation under Kohli. Let’s take a look at the teams for further predictions:

1. KXIP
They have been the story of the tournament and look good to reach their first semifinal since the inaugural edition in 2008. Under coach Bangar, who has expertly infused the team with the perfect dose of youth and inexperience, and captain Bailey’s aggressive batting-order tactics, these Kings are now a force to be contended with. Their limp loss to KKR in their last game was a bit surprising, as was their loss to Mumbai, but no team can perform at such a level without a few lapses. It’s been the SehwagMaxwellMiller-Sharma show so far.
1 more win and they will qualify.
Prediction: 2nd place behind CSK.

2. CSK
They have held their own well, and have only lost to KXIP over two high scoring games. They have been convincing and clinical under Dhoni, thanks to Dwayne Smith and McCullum at the top of the order. Unfortunately, they will not be playing at home in Chennai, but it won’t make much of a difference to a team that ended Mumbai’s 11 match home unbeaten run. They need one more win to qualify.
Prediction: 1st place.

3. RR
The Royals have put in the most heartwarming performance once again, starting as underdogs, but making it an Aussie show. Smith, Faulkner, Watson have been the architects, while Tambe, Samson and Richardson have done their jobs well. This is a team where old horse Hodge can’t even find a spot in—thanks to the all round talent of Smith. Watson is yet to hit top form with the bat. A couple of wins more should be easy enough.
Prediction: 3rd place

4. KKR
Inconsistency has plagued their ranks, but bowlers like Morkel and Narine are stepping up now. Gambhir has found spectacular form after scoring 1 run in the first 4 games, combining with Uthappa to form the most potent opening partnership after Smith-McCullum for CSK. They have only won 4, and will be challenged till the end.
Prediction: 5th place

5. Sunrisers
Tied with KKR on points, and will rue the missed opportunity against Mumbai at home. Their refusal to promote Warner to a higher position is costing them, especially with Dhawan in questionable form. Fortunately, they possess the best bowler of IPL 2014 in Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, and Dale Steyn is lethal against anybody not named AB De Villiers. Amit Mishra is gradually finding form, and must step up to bolster their defense.
Prediction: 4th place

6. MI
A few wins on the bounce has put them back into contention, thanks to the dominance of two teams, with the rest performing badly enough to still be fighting for the final spot. They will be relieved to be away from the bottom finally, after losing their first 5 games. Still, their performances are far from convincing, but they seem to have found an opener in Simmons, and loyal Mumbai player Rayadu has found good form. They still need to win almost all their games now. I don’t expect a miracle.
Prediction: 6th place

7. RCB
With Gayle out of the tournament after injuring his shoulder and failing for 4 games in a row, and with Kohli in terrible form, this team has relied solely on AB and occasionally on the inconsistent Yuvraj Singh. All their big-spending ways have again come undone, and they are the polar opposite in ideologies to KXIP and RR at the top.
Prediction: 7th place

8. DD
There is no hope for a team that refuses to promote its attacking players like Duminy and Jadhav to the top. KP is now opening, and Vijay has been dropped, but their bowling lineup looks as shaky as ever. Even Kirsten can’t change the fortunes of this perpetually wooden-spooned team.
Prediction: LAST.

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