IPL 2014 resumes after a two-day break, allowing teams to catch their breath and work out final strategies as several teams eye a late push for the playoff berths. Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings are assured of places in the next phase, Rajasthan Royals are almost there but not quite, and might need a win or two to get to the knockout stage. What it effectively means is that, including Rajasthan, five teams are in the fray for two spots, and I am sure the next 10 days will make for exciting cricket.
The challenge ahead of Chennai and Punjab will be to maintain their rhythm and ensure that they keep their winning runs going. It is a long tournament, and it is, therefore, important not to take the foot off the pedal. Cricketing logic might dictate that with qualification guaranteed, it is time to give the bench a go, but in Twenty20 cricket, I don’t think that thought is a very prudent one. You have to look to win every game. It’s a three-hour game and despite the travel, there is enough recovery time. I don’t feel there is any room for experimentation. If you get into a losing habit leading into the knockout games, it is not an ideal scenario, so teams will have to put out their settled, winning combinations and not afford to take a chance with their playing personnel.
For those trying to somehow make it to the knockouts, the situation is the exact opposite.
Need to win all games
Apart from Rajasthan, the other four sides will need to win nearly all their remaining matches to have a realistic hope of progressing to the next phase. The seniors have shouldered the burden thus far, and some of them have not succeeded for various reasons. Now is the time for these teams to unearth new champions in their sides, when the chips are down and the teams have been pushed to the wall. This could be the chance for the youngsters to stand up and make themselves counted; the situation is calling out loud for course correction.
Coaches will look into the bottom of the bag to identify the resources they feel will do the job for them.
HAWKEYE / TCM
The writer is a former India international