Not too long ago, the Mumbai Indians looked dead and buried, their chances of defending their IPL title gone with the wind, while the Rajasthan Royals looked locked for a spot in the playoffs with the team looking more than capable of finishing in the top-two places.
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How quickly things can change. Come Sunday night at the Wankhede Stadium, the final match of the regular season in IPL 2014, there will be so much at stake that the team that blinks first might just take that early flight back home.
The Mumbai Indians need a win to qualify for the playoffs on Sunday, while the Royals can guarantee their place in the final four with two points. For MI, two points behind fourth-placed RR at the moment, just a win will not do – it has to be a comprehensive victory, or the Royals will sneak through.
If the defending champs bat first, they will need to record a win by 42 runs, while if they chase, they will need to haul down the target in under 15 overs, something KKR showed on Saturday is not impossible. So, the advantage clearly lies with the Royals at the moment, but the way Rajasthan have performed over the past couple of games, MI will definitely fancy their chances.
The two teams met six days ago in Ahmedabad, with MI winning the game comfortably by 25 runs – a repeat of that margin of victory will not take them through to the playoffs, though, and the Mumbai Indians will know they will have to play out of their skins to fashion a where-did-that-come-from win.
"As a team, we have shown a lot of character to still stand a chance of making it to the playoffs after going down in the first five matches," MI opener Michael Hussey, who has struck form to great effect, told IPL's official website. "I just want to get a win. I don't care who gets the runs. Even if I get a duck and we win, I will be happy."
The Royals' form has tailed off alarmingly over the last six games, of which they have won just two, which in turn has made their task of finishing in the top four all the more difficult. Too many times, RR have experimented with their lineup, probably thinking their playoff spot was safe, but in a the-games-just-keep-coming tournament like this, you take your eye off the ball for one minute, and you will be punished.
RR had the chance to end all hopes of MI making a stirring comeback by finding a way past Kings XI Punjab on Friday, but another abject batting performance put paid to those hopes. The Rajasthan Royals need to find their batting mojo quickly, with the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Shane Watson needing to step up at the top of the order to decrease the pressure on their undoubtedly strong lower middle order.
MI will give it their all on Sunday, and if the Royals fail to match their opponents' intensity, then it just might be curtains for the side from Rajasthan.