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Built-up to the Play-offs

Much to the relief to the fans, finally we have an off day in this year IPL! This is the first one and we would have another off day couple of days later. These off days have been kept keeping in the logistical factors at this stage of the tournament where it is just between four teams. Next week would be full of high octane action for the three matches of the play-offs and then the eventual finals of this year’s IPL seasons. So let us see what is in stores for the last week of cricket’s mega-event.

The Qualifier 1 – the match that guarantees a direct ticket for the winning team to play in finals, would be played between the Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings at the Kotla, Delhi tomorrow. Both these teams had qualified for this years play-offs well in advance, and also have lost their respective last matches coming into the play-offs. These two teams have a healthy rivalry amongst themselves, dating back to the previous editions of semifinal-finals/play-offs. leave alone the league/round-robin stages this year. Sour memories for the spectators of MI would be fresh with the “fly and head-home now” gesture made by Dwayne Bravo to Kieron Pollard during last year’s eliminator. That had ended MI’s journey during that season and was a heartbreak for the fans. So that gesture has not gone down well with the fans. Another appearance for MI in this stage of the tournament was during 2010 season, when MI lost in the finals to CSK, thanks to a sublime knock by Suresh Raina. So these two teams do have their history of facing each other during the semifinals-finals/play-offs stage of the IPL.

The Eliminator 1 – that takes you a step closer to the finals, would be played at Kotla, Delhi between the Rajasthan Royals – a team that had qualified for the play-offs pretty early, and the Sun Risers Hyderabad – who would be fresh from their thrilling victory over Kolkata Knight Riders yesterday which knocked out the Royal Challengers Bangalore and insured the teams playing in the play-off from the “GayleStorm”. The fans of these two teams, SRH and RR, would be elated with these teams playing in the play-offs as these two teams have had their pleasant memories of semifinals-finals/play-offs stage of the IPL – a stage and, the tournament on the whole, mostly dominated by CSK. Though the management for SRH would have their first experience of appearing in the play-offs since this is debut season, but the fans still have the same support and the enthusiasm that they had when the Deccan Chargers had lifted the trophy in the second edition of the IPL in South Africa. RRs are juggling between off-field investigations over spot-fixing and on-field preparations for the matches ahead.

While the Qualifier 1 isn’t exactly a knockout kind of a game, since the losing teams would get a second shot at playing in the finals with the Qualifier 2, but getting a direct entry into the finals by winning would be the result which both the teams would push for. The Eliminator 1 is a cruel knockout game, where the losing team would end their journey this season, however the winner also can’t celebrate yet since they still have to play the Qualifier 2 to book their place in the finals.

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