We are at the halfway mark of the group matches in IPL-6 and even though T20 is a tricky format one can stick his neck out and make a couple of predictions.
Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings are almost sure of making the qualifiers and this is not just because the two teams are jointly sharing the top spot with 12 points from eight games. They have clearly been the two best sides in the competition.
The batting firepower of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Tillekeratne Dilshan – even if the last named hasn’t contributed much so far - is enough to cover up for any weakness in the bowling even if there is one. With a run of three successive victories they are peaking and one wouldn’t be surprised if they end up on the top of the table.
Chennai Super Kings on the other hand are ideally balanced in every department – batting, game changers, all round skills, pace bowling, spin bowling – and as the most successful team in IPL’s short history they have a reputation to live up to.
Looking at the other end of the table it can safely be said that neither Pune Warriors nor Delhi Daredevils are going to make it to the qualifiers.
With a woeful record of two wins in eight matches (Pune) and one win in eight games (Delhi) even if they pick themselves up from the bottom of the table and make a remarkable comeback it is almost impossible to gate crash into the qualifiers. This will be a major surprise for neither is a weak squad.
With the likes of Virender Sehwag, David Warner, Mahela Jayawardene, Morne Morkel, Unmukt Chand, Umesh Yadav, Johan Botha and Ifran Pathan in the ranks it is surprising to see Delhi Daredevils occupy the cellar position at the halfway mark.
If anything on paper Pune appear to be even more formidable with the likes of Aaron Finch, Angele Mathews, Steve Smith, Yuvraj Singh, Robin Uthappa, Ross Taylor, Luke Wright and Ajantha Mendis in the line-up.
Indeed both teams have players who have an excellent record in the game’s shortest format and perhaps both Pune Warriors and Delhi Daredevils have fallen victim to the unpredictable nature of T-20 cricket.
The five remaining sides in the middle of the table all have chances of making it to the qualifiers and the competition is obviously going to intensify as the second half of the group stage commences.
Sunrisers Hyderabad have been the surprise of the tournament. When the IPL started they were way down in the bookies list of favourites. But with a record of five wins and three losses they have exceeded expectations. It now remains to be seen if they can carry on the good work and make it to the qualifiers.
It was always known that with Ishant Sharma, Dale Steyn and Amit Mishra around they had the bowling firepower but the batting could present problems. This has been exactly how things have turned out for Sunrisers Hyderabad despite the presence of Kumar Sangakkara, Cameron White and Thisara Pereira. Now that Shikar Dhawan has joined the ranks they will hope for a turnaround in this department.
Rajasthan Royals too are another team who have performed beyond expectations. Their strength has been the batting with Ajinkya Rahane, Rahul Dravid, Brad Hodge and Shane Watson living up to their reputation but the bowling has presented problems with only James Faulkner and Kevon Cooper being among the wickets.
The chances of King’s XI Punjab were not rated very high at the start of the competition but thanks to the batting heroics of David Miller, David Hussey and Mandeep Singh and the bowling of Praveen Kumar and Azhar Mahmood they have managed to remain in contention. They would certainly benefit if Azhar and skipper Adam Gilchrist contribute substantially with the bat.
Mumbai Indians were rated as one of the favourites on the eve of the IPL. With a potentially explosive batting line-up starting with Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar and continuing with Kieron Pollard, Rohit Sharma and Dwayne Smith and a varied bowling line-up that boasted the likes of Lasith Malinga, Mitchell Johnson, Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha they appeared to have the credentials to make the qualifiers.
And while they may still do so lying sixth in the table means that there is a lot of hard work still to be done.
Predictably enough the chances of holders Kolkata Knight Riders doing well were rated quite high when the tournament started but an up and down campaign has seen them occupy the seventh slot in the points table and their big names will have to perform in keeping with their credentials if they are to stay in contention for a place in the qualifiers.
On paper a team with an explosive batting line-up that includes Jacques Kallis, Gautam Gambhir, Eoin Morgan, Manoj Tiwari and Yusuf Pathan and a balanced bowling line-up that has Sunil Narine, Sachithra Senanayake, Brett Lee, Lakshmipathy Balaji and Kallis should have a better record.
Their problem has been inconsistency – when the batting has come off the bowling hasn’t and vice versa. However their chances cannot be ruled out and the splendid victory against King's XI on Friday could be the start of something special.