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  5. IPL 2024 playoffs: Dangerous SRH might spoil favourites KKR's party, RCB start as darkhorse

IPL 2024 playoffs: Dangerous SRH might spoil favourites KKR's party, RCB start as darkhorse

The IPL 2024 playoffs are set to kick off on Tuesday, May 21 with Kolkata Knight Riders, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bengaluru set to fight it out for the coveted trophy. Who has the edge? Who has the momentum, let's dissect because it has been an interesting season.

Written By: Anshul Gupta @oyegupta_ New Delhi Published on: May 21, 2024 14:58 IST
The final push for the trophy begins on Tuesday, May 21 as
Image Source : KKRIDERS/SUNRISERS/BCCI/IPL The final push for the trophy begins on Tuesday, May 21 as Kolkata Knight Riders, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bengaluru, fight it out for the trophy

It has been a long, strange, bizarre yet record-breaking season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) which might have witnessed its greatest leader walk off into the sunset. It has been long because 70 games in 58 days is not an easy watch. Strange because 250-plus became almost a routine at one point and some teams almost chased them down too, Punjab Kings actually did it once and there were 160-180 being defended as well on a few occasions. Bizarre because the teams many expected to qualify, Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings failed and Royal Challengers Bengaluru needed a shock to rejuvenate themselves and caught the rain at the last second.

Kolkata Knight Riders, many had expectations from them but the inconsistency they had shown in the last year, there was uncertainty regarding them with the return of Shreyas Iyer, and Gautam Gambhir fitting in with a new coaching staff. A similar fear existed regarding the Sunrisers Hyderabad, who had a new coach and a new captain and even though both had worked together for Australia. However, there was a a bit of a risk since Sunrisers' plans have gone pear-shaped in the last three seasons and Pat Cummins had never captained in the format.

On the other hand, the team that everyone picked as favourites, Rajasthan Royals, expectedly dominated the tournament for the majority of the first 40 days of the tournament before falling off a cliff to go four losses and one no result in the next five games. Does experience of playing knockouts help? Or the 'momentum' word is key. If momentum is anything then RCB should be favourites, however, on the day of the knockout, nothing of that sort matters.

The performance on that very day, the ability to soak in pressure and being able to come out of it on the right side will count. The way teams have gone about in this year's tournament, KKR start favourites. Yes, they will be without one of their enforcers at the top, Phil Salt, who has returned home for international duty but a readymade replacement in the form of Rahmanullah Gurbaz shouldn't affect them as much as it seemed. Like RCB, who slotted in Glenn Maxwell for Will Jacks. In this aspect, the Royals will suffer the most with Tom Kohler-Cadmore fairly new to the IPL hullaballoo.

Apart from that KKR have a fairly settled batting line-up, followed by an all-round bowling attack. The spin chokehold in the middle overs by Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy has probably won KKR a few games on its own and the Sunrisers will have to be careful against those two if they want to seal a spot in the final directly. It is a cracker of a match-up, of both destructive batting line-ups against each other and the team who bowls better could come out as the likely winner.

Sunrisers have been inconsistent with the ball as Bhuvneshwar Kumar, T Natarajan and captain Cummins have shown signs of quality in some places have been erratic at others and will have to be careful because, unlike other teams, they have players to give it back in their own way to them and have the bowling as well to contain them. Kolkata Knight Riders definitely start as favourites but the style of play gives the Orange Army a solid edge.

But what about the Royals? The 'Royal' Challengers have carved out their own place in history with six wins in a row. That is some feat, which will take time to be matched, let alone be bettered. It's a turnaround for the ages, especially given that apart from their own results, several others had to go their way for them to qualify for two points after eight matches to be in the playoffs. Apart from the Rajat Patidars, the Swapnil Singhs, Cameron Greens, Yash Dayals and Virat Kohlis of the world, the luck and the stars have aligned for RCB this year.

Rishabh Pant getting banned just before DC's game against RCB when both had a chance to seal the playoffs spot, Rajat Patidar getting dropped thrice early in his as many innings and then going on to play rapid knocks, the bash brothers for Delhi Jake Fraser-McGurk and Tristan Stubbs both getting run out in the same match, rain washing out Rajasthan Royals' match and not Hyderabad's when the prediction of showers was the other way around. Now RCB face an underconfident Royals who are yet to win in May and not Sunrisers, who on their day could bulldoze a team before they even walked out on the field.

But the challenge for RCB will be, can they continue with the same momentum in the knockouts because now there are no second chances and emotions will have to be kept aside after what happened in the Garden City a few days ago.

Royals is an interesting case because it happened with them last season as they went from looking very good to reach the top four to not making it and now are on a freefall and will need their main players to stand up, the likes of Yashasvi Jaiswal, Sanju Samson, Riyan Parag, Yuzvendra Chahal and Sandeep Sharma. Royals' bowling attack is still very potent and solid but the absence of both Shimron Hetmyer and Jos Buttler has hurt them and hope that the former is fit by the time the match starts.

Ideally, KKR start favourites but knockouts don't work on traditional prediction. One good innings, one good over and suddenly the favourites struggle to even get close to the finishing line.

 

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