Indian Premier League 8: An unpredictable but exciting story so far
Kolkata, May 18 (IANS) David Warner may have emerged as the individual top run-getter in the round robin stage of the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL), but such is the unpredictability of the cash-rich tournament that his team Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) crashed out of the popular competition, finishing sixth in the points table.
The topsy-turvy nature of the contests was amply evident during a sensational last week when defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) - once sitting pretty at the second spot - saw their hopes for a playoff slot go for a toss. Again, Mumbai Indians (MI) at one point of time looked like finishing nowhere near the top four, but in the end made the cut.
The Warner-led Sunrisers seemed on course to entering the playoffs before they stumbled in their ultimate group phase game against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) on Sunday.
Warner - who leads the batting chart with 562 runs - stupendously caught a Virat Kohli skier against RCB but failed to remain within the playing field to plunge his side into a nerve-shattering loss that paved the way for RCB's play-off qualification.
Kohli is third in the run-getters table with 481 runs from 14 matches at an average of 53.44, preceded by Rajasthan Royals' (RR) Ajinkya Rahane who has notched 498 from 13 matches, averaging 49.80.
Contrary to the helter-skelter in the middle of the table, three-time champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) remained steady in the forefront, courtesy of their formidable team composition which includes West Indian Darren Bravo.
Bravo heads the list of wicket-takers with 20 victims from 14 matches with an average of 16.45. He is followed by RCB's leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and Mumbai Indians pacer Lasith Malinga, who have claimed 19 scalps each.
Besides Chahal and Kohli, burly Jamaican batsman Chris Gayle has also contributed to RCB's rise, hitting as many as 34 sixes in 12 innings. He is followed by CSK's swashbuckling opener Brendon McCullum who has clubbed 23 over the boundaries so far.
But it is Gayle's RCB teammate AB de Villiers who has recorded the highest individual score in a match, plundering a 59-ball 133 not out against the Mumbai Indians on May 10. Gayle has also clobbered his way to a punitive knock of 117 runs against Kings XI Punjab.
His West Indies teammate Andre Russell was defending champions KKR's go-to-man, as he managed a strike rate of 192.89 - the highest in the tournament. While Bangalore would fall upon their most trusted seamer in their hour of need, Australian Mitchell Starc, who has 18 wickets to his credit, alongside the best bowling average of 13.44.
The tournament's journey has been filled with its share of ups and downs. Now with four qualifying teams - CSK, MI, RCB and RR - and four games remaining, the stage is set for more fireworks and excitement.
CSK will take on MI on Tuesday in Qualifier I in Mumbai. The winner of the match will enter the final, to be played on May 24 in Kolkata.
RCB face RR in the Eliminator match in Pune on Wednesday. The winner of the match will play the losing team of Qualifier I in Ranchi on Friday to determine the second team to advance to the title round.
(Debdoot Das can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)