With matches coming thick and fast and the points table wearing a clearer look, there is a distinct polarity between the top few teams and two bottom-placed teams. As such, while there might be a sub-conscious tendency to take the Delhi Daredevils and Pune Warriors India lightly, such a plan could backfire for those teams that are in with a genuine chance of making it to the play-offs.
In their heart of hearts, Pune and Delhi know that not even a mini-miracle can keep their prospects alive. It's in this situation that such teams become doubly dangerous. For one thing, they can play freely, without the pressure of the qualification sword hanging over their heads. For another, while this year's tournament might have been won and lost from an overall team perspective, players will still play for individual and collective pride, as well as the pride of their owners.
Delhi and Pune find themselves perfectly placed to spoil a few teams' parties. It's not as if either of these two sides is an also-ran or a pushover. If they are placed eighth and ninth respectively at this stage of the competition, it's not because of a paucity of talent or ambition. Sometimes, the best laid plans can go astray, and when results don't go your way, you can sometimes lose a bit of heart and focus.
Matter of pride
While Delhi and Pune will be fighting for pride as much as anything else, some of the other teams will find re-energised players following the announcement of the India team for the Champions Trophy. Bowlers like Vinay Kumar and Amit Mishra, hard-working cricketers with results to back them up, will take pride in having earned a national call-up again, and they will use the confidence to up their intensity levels in the remaining games.
Vinay and Mishra have been consistent performers at the domestic level for several years now, though there is some substance to the theory that their performances in the league have tilted the scales in their favour.
Agreed, the T20 league is a 20-over game of cricket, but if a bowler does consistently well in the 20-over game, then the possibility of him more than holding his own in the 50-over format becomes even more strong though the reverse might not be true.
The writer is a former India pacer