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Tight race for championship glory as IPL 2022 heads to grand finale

The stage is set, 4 teams are ready and now it’s a dash to the finish in IPL 2022. After two months of high voltage action, thrilling finishes and superlative individual performances, IPL heads for a grand finale in the playoffs. Though the last league game was inconsequential, the Final Four for the knockouts were decided only in the penultimate game – a reflection of the close race in the league stage.

Three of the Top Four were always a notch ahead in the league. Table toppers Gujarat Titans (GT), Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) and Rajasthan Royals (RR) were easily the sides that performed creditably all through; and the fact that despite Virat Kohli’s horror season, RCB finally squeezed through is a testimony to the depth and skill in their side.

GUJARAT TITANS Amid the topsy-turvy results at the league stage, the one constant was Gujarat Titans at the top of the points table. This was a huge surprise because after the mega auction, most experts believed that they were one of the weakest sides and had little chance of making it to the playoffs. But in Hardik Pandya, the team discovered an inspirational skipper who has displayed fine leadership abilities, read match situations deftly and taken bold decisions that have brought out the best from his team-mates.

The resurgence of David Miller, the class of Shubman Gill at the top and Rahul Tewatia’s daring exploits in the late middle order have helped the Titans to pull off victories in close clashes. But what has enabled GT to emerge as a formidable force is the penetration of its bowling unit. While Shami has regularly given breakthroughs in the initial overs, Lockie Ferguson has bowled with sharp pace to unsettle the best of batters. Overall, with an amazing mix of youth and experience, the Titans could well reach the pinnacle of IPL glory in their debut season.

LUCKNOW SUPER GIANTS The other debutants, Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) have been equally impressive in the league. Under K L Rahul’s able leadership and Gautam Gambhir’s astute mentorship, LSG have been in fine form and were distinctly unlucky in not finishing among the Top Two. Rahul and Quinton de Kock have been the finest opening pair of IPL 2022 and their bowling unit has given additional teeth to LSG’s soaring hopes. With a quality mix of skill and efficacy in both pace and spin, LSG bowlers have posed tough challenges for most opponents. Their young quickies, Avesh Khan and Mohsin Khan have rarely failed to jolt their opponents. However, in their last few games LSG looked rather vulnerable and lost two of their final three matches. These hiccups makes one wonder whether LSG have enough fuel power left in them to clinch the championship.

ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE The third side that has never won the IPL is RCB which has had a roller-coaster ride right through the league. On paper, RCB are one of the strongest squads but all through this season they have been terribly inconsistent. Going from sublime in one game to ridiculous in the next, RCB were distinctly lucky in grabbing a spot in the playoffs.

Though Virat Kohli has had his worst IPL season, captain Faf du Plessis, Glen Maxwell and most of all Dinesh Karthik’s brilliance as a finisher has enabled RCB to stay alive. The gritty Karthik displayed rare batting courage and flamboyance that bailed the team out of critical situations on numerous occasions. However, in the last match against the Titans, Virat Kohli finally regained his touch with a masterly 73 which enabled RCB to win and keep their hopes alive. If Virat hits peak form now, RCB could still grab the IPL crown that’s eluded the side till today.

RAJASTHAN ROYALS The only team in the fray who have previously been IPL champions - Rajasthan Royals - have displayed a pluck and panache that makes them a force to reckon with. Much of their early success was due to Jos Buttler’s sublime, record-breaking form. The guile and efficacy of their bowling attack is what makes Rajasthan a potentially championship-winning side. In the pace of Trent Boult and Prasidh Krishna and the wily spin of Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravichandran Ashwin, RR has a fine blend that rarely permits other teams to post imposing totals.

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

SIDDHAARTH MAHAN The writer is a specialist on Sports and Cinema who works as an actor in the Hindi film industry

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