IPL 2022, Teams Likely for Playoffs: Rajasthan, Gujarat firm favourites; SRH, LSG have decent chance
IPL 2022, Top 4 Playoffs Contenders: Rajasthan Royals, Gujarat Titans, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Lucknow Super Giants are top 4 teams likely to make playoffs
After a few controversies, theatricals and nail-biting thrillers, we are halfway through the Indian Premier League (IPL) season 2022. The picture of the playoffs also looks a bit clear as every team has played half of their matches.
Let's look at the top five contenders for a place in the playoffs.
With 10 points in the bank in seven matches, the inaugural edition champions Rajasthan Royals (RR) have made a strong case to make it into the IPL playoffs, for the first time since the league’s 2018 season. Especially, the way England wicketkeeper-batter Jos Buttler is smacking bowlers all over the park this season, it seems a very dangerous indication for the other nine teams.
The franchise from the northern state of India have more or less remained amongst the top four sides from the beginning of the season
Strengths that differentiate Rajasthan from other sides
The biggest positive for them is their top-order firing on all cylinders. Apart from the current Orange Cap holder Jos Buttler, the other opener Devdutt Padikkal has also regained form in the game against Delhi Capitals (DC) by scoring 54 off just 35 balls.
In addition to these two prolific batters, RR skipper Sanju Samson has also chipped in with some dazzling knocks along with the southpaw from the Caribbean, Shimron Hetmyer who has also played a few good cameos.
A fragile middle-order consisting Karun Nair and Riyan Parag, followed by Ravichandran Ashwin, may get tested in the crunch situations when the top order fails. In addition, their two overseas stars Trent Boult and Obed McCoy have gone for plenty of runs in the last couple of matches.
It's been a dream season for Gujarat Titans' skipper Hardik Pandya. Scoring runs, giving breakthroughs, taking blinders, Kung fu Pandya has announced his arrival. Gujarat, so far are the only team in IPL 2022 who have lost just one match. They are placed at the top in the points table with six wins in seven matches.
Strengths of table-toppers
Skipper Pandya leading from the front, delivering with both bat and ball, has been their biggest positive of the season. The addition of magical leg-spinner Rashid Khan to the squad has boosted team morale. The presence of two premium fast bowlers in the form of Lockie Ferguson and Mohammed Shami, is also setting the tone for them in the powerplay overs.
Apart from Pandya and David Miller, no other batter has looked promising. Shubman Gill has played one or two knocks but the opener remained inconsistent more often than not. Wicketkeeper-batter Wriddhiman Saha’s issue of not converting 20s into big scores after eating deliveries is not helping their batting either. Moreover, Rashid usually bats at number 7, but after that they don't have a good tail that can wag to make significant inputs.
A team which was already declared out of top four contention by many cricket pundits at the beginning of the season when they lost two back-to-back games.
Today, Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) are sitting on second place in the points table with 10 points from 7 games. SRH haven't lost a single time in their last five games.
Strengths of SRH
SRH have always been a bowling heavy side. This time around as well they are able to maintain that aura. The quartet of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Thangarasu Natarajan, Marco Jansen and Umran Malik is hunting in packs.
All the batting positions looks stable from the top to lower order. Skipper Kane Williamson and Abhishek Sharma at the top followed by Rahul Tripathi, Aiden Markram and Nicholas Pooran in the middle, all look in form.
Not many weaknesses in this side but their lower-order looks very thin after Nicholas Pooran. Shashank Singh at number 6 and Jagadeesha Suchith at 7 and then the tail follows.
SRH also lack a sixth bowling option in their playing XI. One bad day for any of their mainstream bowlers and they might be pushed on to the backfoot. With Washington Sundar joining back the team, their spin bowling woes might see a bit of a recovery.
Lucknow Super Giants
More often than not, KL Rahul has been criticised for his textbook captaincy; but this season, new franchise Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) seem to be one of the most balanced sides in the fray. Furthermore, their skipper Rahul is scoring runs at a quick pace and with some unreal consistency.
Strengths of LSG
The presence of all-rounders like Jason Holder, Deepak Hooda, Marcus Stoinis and Krunal Pandya allows them to play an extra batter/bowler based on the circumstances.
The prodigious Ayush Badoni is doing wonders for them this season, giving them a real hope going forward.
An unsettled batting order except the seemingly fine openers seems to be an issue with LSG. They haven't found their batting combination in the middle-order yet. It may lead to uncertainties in players' minds as far as their roles are concerned.
Also, their star spinner Ravi Bishnoi hasn't looked in the best of form in this season, apart from the initial stage, which is a sign of worry for them.
Royals Challengers Bangalore
One franchise that comes with a lot of hopes every season, only to get disappointment towards the end of the season, are the southern unit of Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). However, this season the story seems different. They look rejuvenated with the arrival of new captain Faf du Plessis along with Australia pacer Josh Hazlewood.
Although RCB got skittled out for 68 in their last game against Sunrisers Hyderabad, there is a lot of firepower in their side which could help them bounce back at the business end of the tournament.
Strengths of RCB
If you ask any RCB fan, what's their best buy of the season, without any second thought, they will say Dinesh Karthik.
The franchise has got an experienced campaigner in the form of Karthik, who can finish games lower down the order. In fact, Karthik has played his part for them in almost every match of the season. The addition of ex-CSK pacer Josh Hazlewood has also strengthened their bowling lineup who can hunt in pair along with Harshal Patel.
The backbone of RCB for more than a decade - former skipper Virat Kohli's form is their biggest headache. The top order still looks inconsistent; yes, Faf has played some breathtaking knocks but the other two (Virat and Anuj Rawat) also need to step up because they might not want to expose someone like Glenn Maxwell against the new ball.
Also, Mohammed Siraj is looking off-colour and his tendency of leaking runs in the death overs might not help their bowling unit.