IPL 2016 Playoffs: What is the Scenario Concerning Mumbai Indians, the Defending Indian Premier League Champions?

The ‘English version’ of the Premier League and the ‘Indian version’ of the Premier League have been rather akin to each other in the season that has just completed and the one which is nearing its conclusion, respectively. Two underdogs have dominated these two league competitions, swatting aside the behemoths by playing consistently well and with effective gameplans too. Yes, we indeed are talking about the 2015/16 champions of England, Leicester City, who are currently parading the streets of Thailand after securing the English Premier League (EPL) title, and Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), who are at the summit of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2016 table.

The tales of these two sporting outfits have been great to witness and, like with the Foxes, the neutrals who follow the IPL would love to see the Sunrisers go all the way and lift their first-ever title. There is a fair way to go, though, before they can start to dream of being the champions of India. With a game to go, they sit atop of the IPL table, albeit only on the virtue of their net run-rate (NRR). Barring a really big defeat at the hands of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), who they play tomorrow at the Eden Gardens, Sunrisers are assured of a place in the IPL 2016 playoffs. With their six-wicket loss to Delhi Daredevils (DD) last night and just four games to be played in the league phase, we still have six teams – Gujarat Lions (GL), Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians (MI), in addition to Sunrisers and Delhi – fighting for four playoff positions.

This article analyses the permutations and combinations concerning the defending IPL Champions, Mumbai, and assesses what needs to happen, in order for them to reach the playoffs for the seventh successive season. Read on…

IPL 2016 Playoffs – Scenario with Mumbai

Whenever the IPL has been an eight-team competition, 14 and 16 points have been enough for teams to make it to the playoffs. In IPL 2015, Rajasthan Royals (RR) qualified for the playoffs by finishing fourth at the conclusion of the league phase, with 16 points. In the seventh edition, it was Mumbai, who sealed the last playoff spot with 14 points.

Reminiscing the final league game of the 2014 season, that was a straight knockout between the Indians and the Royals at the Wankhede, the home side had to chase a target of 190 in 14.3 overs to reach the playoffs. Engineered by Corey Anderson, Mumbai accomplished what seemed a far-fetched task, much to the annoyance of the ever serene Rahul Dravid, the then Royals’ mentor, who threw his cap to the floor after Aditya Tare smacked James Faulkner over fine-leg’s head for a six.

In the ongoing season, however, 16 points does not seem like it would ‘guarantee’ a team a place in the playoffs, as it did in the previous IPL editions. As many as five teams could finish with 16 points and only four of them will make it to the playoffs.

The scenario for Mumbai, who currently have 14 points from 12 games, has become a dicey one after Daredevils, riding on Karun Nair’s 59-ball 83, beat SRH by six wickets in Raipur last night. A defeat for Delhi would have had Mumbai needing to just win their game against Gujarat, to progress. However, the net run-rate will surely come into the equation now, making matters rather complicated ahead of the final four games.

Looking at the teams which have 14 points from 13 games, Mumbai’s NRR (-0.082) is worse than that of RCB (+0.930) and KKR (+0.022), and slightly better than Delhi’s (-0.102). Having said that, Mumbai’s net run-rate is also better than Gujarat’s (-0.479) and although the Lions have 16 points on the board, if the defending champions beat the home side at the Green Park in Kanpur, it is GL, who will be facing the heat and in danger of bowing out of IPL 2016.

Therefore, the Mumbai Indians are still in control of much of their destiny. We will know more about the equation before the start of the game at 8 PM tonight and, like the 2014 season, Rohit Sharma and company must ensure that they get their calculations right and achieve the equation.

Because Mumbai must improve their net run-rate, their gameplan is likely to be to bowl first if Rohit wins the toss. However, the quartet of Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch, and Raina will take some stopping from the MI bowlers, most of whom have had a good IPL 2016 campaign and must be spot on tonight.

Summary

Mumbai would have watched Delhi’s clash against the Sunrisers at their hotel last night and rooted for Hyderabad, a win for whom would have made MI’s task against Gujarat easier and simpler. However, now that the net run-rate has become a factor, Mumbai must prove their efficiency again, to first beat Gujarat, whose net run-rate is worse than the Indians’, and then try and improve their run-rate at the start of play (-0.082).

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