The IPL 2020 league stage is now entering its business stage, with team managements working on the permutations and combinations that will see them through to the playoffs.
As the franchises plan their way forward in the tournament, we try to predict the team that will finish fourth on the table, assuming the current top three – Delhi Capitals, Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore – will safely qualify for the playoffs.
While Kolkata Knight Riders, currently fourth on the table with 10 points, are the favourites to finish in one of the playoff spots, the other four sides – Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kings XI Punjab, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals – are all at six points each with five league games left to play.
Historically, teams with 16 points in an eight-team IPL have always made it to the playoffs – a figure that any of the teams in the bottom four can get to if they win all of their remaining matches. Which makes things all the more interesting.
Ben Gardner, Wisden.com managing editor – Chennai Super Kings
Look, I know it doesn’t make any sense. Half their squad are in the vulnerable age category, there’s no Suresh Raina, and MS Dhoni is a shadow of his former self. They were gleefully written off as they stumbled early on. And yet there they are, right in the mix once more. Faf du Plessis and Shane Watson are starring as the gnarled too-old-for-this-shit-but-doing-one-last-job veterans, Sam Curran is demonstrating he might already be a T20 player of note, and slowly those creaking joints and aging limbs are resembling some kind of cohesive machine. Come crunch time, when they need two wins from two and net run rate to go their way, all those old-school smarts and invaluable experience will count. Soon enough their playoff-making hot streak will end. But I don’t think it will be this year.
Aadya Sharma, Wisden India staff writer – Chennai Super Kings
I’m shunning logic here and going purely by instincts, à la MS Dhoni. A side bruised and battered in a manner it hasn’t been known to in the past might be arguably the weakest team on paper in IPL 2020, but is still in contention for a playoff spot, mathematically at least. And if there’s one team that can defy predictions, patterns (and logic), it is the Super Kings. If they’re able to pull it off, it will be one of the biggest IPL turnarounds and will extend their 100 per cent playoffs record. Does the Dhoni-Fleming combination have one last act in them to resuscitate the CSK team as we know it? The form of their matchwinners needs to align, and they need more performances like the Watson-du Plessis’ opening stand from earlier this month. Unlikely, but still possible.
Sankalp Srivastava, Wisden India staff writer – Rajasthan Royals
While KKR do look like the favourites, they are yet to face three of the bottom four, scrapping for their lives and all the more dangerous for it, for the second time in the tournament. That could complicate things. Sunrisers, for me, are the least likely to make the playoffs, and CSK look like a spent force and in desperate need of an overhaul. Punjab are making a bit of a comeback but I’ll be putting my money on Rajasthan. Ben Stokes has played just three matches so far and I think RR are just one big Stokes performance away from getting right back on track. So basically I’m putting my money on Stokes to drag RR through to IPL 2020 playoffs. If they sort their batting order – Buttler opens and Stokes comes in later for me – then their path might become much easier.