Sedition and surprise were the words of the week as the group stage of the Indian Premier League finally reached the end of the group stages. From now on the contest is almost a knock-out one, until the 2013 champions are crowned on Sunday evening.
The sedition element came courtesy of three Rajasthan Royals bowlers, who were arrested and remanded in custody on charges of match-fixing. Although not a scandal on the level seen in 2010, when three Pakistani players were convicted and jailed for a similar offence during a Test match, it was still a shock, especially to a Rajasthan squad who have been such an impressively tight-knit unit this season. In that respect it was fortunate that their qualification for the play-offs was already assured before the news broke, as they lost badly in their final group match on Sunday and looked like a team playing from memory rather than with the spirit they have exhibited so far.
That defeat was against the surprises of the group stage, Sunrisers Hyderabad. Not only did they take the core of a failing team, the long-gone Deccan Chargers, and turn them into winners, but in doing so knocked out one of the long-time favourites in Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The way that the competition goes now is that the top four sides from the group stage - Rajasthan and Hyderabad, plus Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings - go into a four game contest for the title. On Tuesday, Mumbai (who came second in the group stage) and Chennai (who won it) play in Delhi. The winners go through to the final in Kolkata. The losers then play the winners of Wednesday’s game between Rajasthan and Hyderabad for a place in the final. Which all sounds very convoluted, but what did you expect from a competition which took 72 games to whittle nine teams down to four?
There’s a slightly crazy amount of parity about the markets at the moment, with Chennai and Mumbai both 6/4 favorites at SkyBet and both Rajasthan and Hyderabad 17/2 through SpreadEx. It does become very difficult to call the result at this stage, especially after a tournament where no team established real dominance. The teams with the best recent form, however, are Mumbai and, despite that loss on Sunday, Rajasthan. At those odds, the Royals are definitely hold the best value for your sports picks.
Bangalore’s failure to qualify for the playoffs puts an interesting twist on the top batsman market. Their opening batsman, Chris Gayle, still leads the way on 708 runs, with Chennai’s Michael Hussey in second place with 646. Hussey is guaranteed at least two and possibly three more innings to try to make up that 62 run deficit, which is why he is 18/35 with Betfair. Gayle, on the other hand, is 13/8 in what is pretty much a two horse race, and at those betting odds he is definitely still worth backing, provided you look to lay that bet quickly should Hussey score heavily against Mumbai.The leading bowler market is a far more open race, with one player from each of the play-off sides in with a chance of winning. James Faulkner of Rajasthan took the lead from long time leader Dwayne Bravo of Chennai when he cleaned up five Hyderabad batsmen on Sunday. He now has 26 scalps, Bravo 25 and then come Mumbai’s Mitchell Johnson with 22 and the only Indian left in the field, Amit Mishra of Hyderabad with 20. It is fair to say that Mishra, even though he could potentially play three more games, will have to go some to win, but at 18/1 with Betfair he’ll be worth a punt if the Sunrisers and Chennai both win. With a potential three more games, though, the title looks to be Faulkner’s to lose, as his odds of 11/9 (again with Betfair) suggest.