The Chennai Super Kings were at the Wankhede in full force ahead of the first qualifier against the Mumbai Indians. The hosts were keener. Arriving a few hours earlier from Hyderabad, they arrived at the stadium 15 minutes before time.
Ricky Ponting, Mumbai’s head coach, headed straight to the match wicket. He took a closer look, the smile on the normally stern face reflected happiness over his team’s second-place finish.
After four straight losses at the start of IPL, Mumbai stared at a premature exit. But like last season, they fought back. Rohit Sharma’s boys recovered remarkably to not only enter the playoffs but finished second behind the Super Kings. In fact, the team’s resurgence saw them win seven of the last eight games.
Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals sealed the third and fourth spots. Apart from Mumbai’s terrific run in the latter half, IPL rules that determine the top-four spots would have left Bangalore feeling hard done by.
According to the rules, the number of wins registered by a franchise gets preference over the net run rate, which is often used as a parameter to decide spots in a multi-team tournament.
Chennai with nine wins (18) had the most points and hence were natural toppers. Mumbai had the same points (16) as Bangalore and Rajasthan but finished ahead of them on account of completing eight wins as compared to seven for the next two sides. If net run rate was taken into account after teams finished on equal points, Bangalore would have finished second because their run rate is the highest + 1.037.
Also, Bangalore and Rajasthan lost a game less than Mumbai. So if more victories are crucial, aren’t less losses important too?
Had all games been completed, the present system of deciding the top four was fair. The imbalance in the IPL rule comes to the fore when you realise that because Bangalore and Rajasthan suffered two washouts each, they were denied another couple of wins.
“Since the IPL GC was constituted just before the season, they would not have had the time to discuss the issue in their meetings. Let’s see what they do of it next year,” said a BCCI official.
The top-two teams in the IPL play the first qualifier, the winner of which progresses to the final. The third and fourth teams face off in an eliminator, the loser of which is knocked out.
The defeated team from the first qualifier, however, has another shot at making the final. The losing side plays the winner of the eliminator. The outfit that triumphs in this clash, known as the second qualifier, meets the winner of the first qualifier in the final.
For a tournament already dogged by inconsistencies, having a system that gives every team a fair chance at claiming a top-four position would be better.