For the fans seeking thrill-a-minute cricket, it is an absolute must the Indian Premier League catches their imagination in the final stages of the tournament. Blame it on cricket overkill, or a lack of off-the-field drama, the current edition has been the dullest since the IPL kicked off
The nail-biting finishes and heated on-field battles that made IPL a global brand have been missing this time. Matches have been played in half-empty stadiums while the TRPs have also dropped.
However, Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Royals Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders - the unofficial top seeds - have raised the excitement level going into the play-offs. In terms of overall package, they were the best of the lot.
Like in every long drawn competition, they had their ups and down but have deservedly earned their place in the last four. And, the play-offs, starting on Tuesday, have all the ingredients needed to deliver a blockbuster. The star cast is enviable and the battles within the war promise much. The stakes are high and the pressure will be intense. It will be a case of who blinks first.
Although there's not much to choose between the teams, the favourites tag is with defending champions Chennai Super Kings. They have the big-match record and the crucial home advantage.
Mumbai Indians have tapered off towards the final stages but those who have played against them believe it will take some doing to beat them.
Adam Gilchrist, whose Kings XI Punjab team missed the play-offs narrowly, said: "Chennai seem to be very good and they are very strong in home conditions; it's theirs for the taking. Mumbai is a star-studded side, but seem to have some confidence issues at the moment. And if Gayle picks it to be his day, RCB can be there."
Deccan Chargers' stand-in skipper Cameron White also backed Chennai. "Super Kings are a good all-round team, particularly at home. They are the favourites at the moment."
MS Dhoni's side is backed for their ability and the massive advantage of playing at home. Even if they are again hit by Gayle force in the play-off against RCB, Chennai will have a second chance to win a berth in the final.
CSK have taken the second spot in the 10-team league table. The loser of the first-second play-off will meet the winner of the 3rd and 4th play-off as a measure to reward consistency.
The third play-off is at Chepauk where CSK will be huge favourites, having stayed unbeaten this season. In the game between MI and KKR, the hone support for Tendulkar's team at the Wankhede could make the difference.
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