It's the halfway stage in the IPL and we now move to the business end. None of the eight teams is definitely in or out, though the Mumbai Indians and the Kings XI Punjab are most likely to occupy the two ends of the spectrum.
It means, realistically, six teams stand a chance. Given their strengths, it means venues can have an important bearing on the fates of the teams. Teams with more matches remaining in base camps have an advantage, for they can tweak the conditions a little to suit them. The Mumbai Indians have one more match remaining at home and then there are only away outings. They take on the Deccan Chargers in familiar conditions on Saturday and then leave their base camp. They can more or less book a semifinal berth on Saturday. Thereafter, they must expose themselves to the opponents who would try to punch holes in their batting line-up. They ought to rotate their eleven too in order to keep the main stars fresh for the knock-out battles.
The Delhi Daredevils have three more matches remaining at home and can hope to add a few more wins to their tally of five. They do stand a very good chance of making it to the semifinals, bolstered as they would be by the arrival of Daniel Vettori. And to think that AB de Villiers and Tillakaratne Dilshan have rarely contributed and skipper Gambhir has missed a few important games!
The Royal Challengers Bangalore are the next hopefuls. They too have three games at home but such is the balance in their squad that beating them at any venue would be difficult.
Their batting symmetry is outstanding, which is likely to get better with the arrival of Ross Taylor. Manish Pandey and Robin Uthappa would also have got over their Team India selection blues by now.
The Rajasthan Royals are dangerous floaters, have always been. All their three matches at home in Jaipur are yet to be played. Expect them to be slow the decks to suit Shane Warne. The likes of Shaun Tait and Shane Watson are difficult to negate anyway on any pitch. It would help them cover the frailty of their batting line-up.
Of the remaining four teams, the biggest trek is ahead of the Deccan Chargers and the Kings XI Punjab. The Kolkata Knight Riders would have taken heart from Thursday's win at the Eden Gardens where they still have four matches remaining. Ganguly wrote a superb script in the last game where there was planning and a method in the way they went about their job. The same is true for the Chennai Super Kings who need the inspiration of their skipper Dhoni now more than ever.