Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Phew! Mumbai makes it to the top forecast of a MI-CSK final looks closer now!

This is the time for me to say “I told you so”! On 10th May, I had written a post titled “It will be a Mumbai-Chennai final and Chennai could win it again” and after many surprising ups and downs, that prediction looks like its coming good!

However, let me honest here. Chennai and Mumbai may have hit the top-3 league, and my prediction may be coming true, but the model that I had developed surely appears to have failed. The journey for the then favorites Mumbai Indians has been anything but how I predicted. At that time, Mumbai Indians were at the top of the tables and they had a win% of 80%. Little did my forecast suggest that immediately after that forecast, MI would actually lose – not win – nearly 80% of the remaining four matches (3 losses out of 4.....the last one also won on the last ball with the help of a lucky six). At that time, I had calculated that six MI players were in form – Tendulkar, Pollard, Bhajji, Malinga, Rohit Sharma and Rayudu. Now we know how this changed since my forecast.....Pollard, Bhajji and Malinga have just crashed out. In fact, in the last four league matches of MI, Malinga has taken only 3 wickets after having taken 24 in the first ten. So poor has been Mumbai’s form that they got bundled out for just 87 in the match against Kings XI Punjab. Mumbai also had the ignominy of losing to the then lowly teams of Rajasthan Royals, Deccan Chargers and Kings XI Punjab.

If Mumbai’s fall from form has been dramatic, Bangalore’s rise has been too. I had written then that “No one can predict when Gayle will fire again and he alone could take RCB to a win this year” and that’s come really true! Gayle’s risen to the top of the run scorers with an astounding total of 519 from 10 matches at an average of 74. It is this form of his that has taken RCB to where they have reached. I had also written that Chennai had the maximum number of “in form” players and that’s stayed true. All of them – with the possible addition of Ashwin – have been at the forefront of Chennai’s charge into the finals. But most importantly, I had said that Dhoni is the world’s most astute captain and that’s the real reason why Chennai has reached the top. The man’s captaincy has made Chennai reach the finals three times out of the four IPL tournaments so far. Of all the variables used in my predictive model, the one that has been most consistent (and hence very reliable) is Dhoni’s captaincy. That’s why I had written “But if I have to place my bets, it’s on CSK”. That is still my position!

So now, it’s time to do the analysis all over again......and while it may appear to predict now because one has to only predict the results of three teams and two games, in reality its even more difficult. The chances of error are much more because one does not have the benefit of using “ long term averages” as in the past. Now, it’s just about the performance on those specific days. Who will hold their nerves better in the remaining two matches? That’s going to determine the winners.

I have no way of bettering my forecast. It could be either a CSK-RCB or CSK-MI final. It’s probably an equal probability and only for this reason, I will stick to my original forecast of it being the latter rather than the former. What I can try and do is identify the key factors that could determine the finalists:

For Mumbai, it’s a case of Malinga firing. He’s the main weapon that the Mumbai Indians have. Without Malinga firing, MI cannot get the opponents out. Why he didn’t bowl his yorkers in the last four matches is he holding them back for now? Or is he out of form? The other key factor is going to be Pollard’s form. Can he match Gayle’s fiery form and temperament? On a good day, he can outdo Gayle....but of late, he has been totally out of touch. And can Tendulkar please not count on Gayle to bowl....he’s probably the easiest bowler to whack in the IPL. He’s a slow pacer....and his height actually helps bring the bowl to a comfortable height to be whacked. For RCB, they will have to hope and pray that Gayle comes good against MI. They are a very good side, but if we take Gayle out, there is very little left (Of course Kohli was the key contributer in their match against CSK....but even then). Between Raina, Dhoni and Hussey, they will always get runs on the board....but whether they get to 160 (beatable) or 180 (unbeatable) will depend on Gayle. The other person who is crucial for CSK is Ashwin.....a spinner who has done well but can do much much better (the other one Bollinger can be safely predicted to do well).

So net net, in my current opinion, who wins in the MI-RCB semi-final (if it can be called that), will depend on Malinga, Pollard, Gayle and Bollinger. Two West Indians, one Australian and one Sri Lankan will decide (in my opinion) who enters the final from these two sides. Such is the international character of the IPL!

The real truth? Whoever their competitor, CSK is the one who is going to lift this cup. At home, the team’s virtually unbeatable. The other thing that is unbeatable is Dhoni’s captaincy. My strong recommendation is to bet on CSK.....!

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