Ricky Ponting's IPL10 playoff preview

Indian Premier League title-winner reveals his tip for the final, gives his verdict on the contenders and outlines key players

Ricky Ponting's heart is with Mumbai Indians, the side he coached to an Indian Premier League crown, but the former Test skipper is sticking with his pre-tournament pick Sunrisers Hyderabad to win this year's title.

Ponting has tipped a Mumbai–Hyderabad final, the winners of the 2015 and 2016 editions of the T20 tournament respectively, to meet in this season's final.

IPL playoffs: What you need to know

With the playoffs to get underway tonight with a showdown between the Indians and Rising Pune Supergiant, the ex-Australia skipper weighs in on the major talking points leading into the playoffs and the key players for each of the four remaining contenders.  

Mumbai Indians

The early standouts, Mumbai stumbled with consecutive losses heading into their final regular-season match. But a vital win over a Kolkata outfit breathing down their necks sees them wrap up top spot and head into the playoffs as slight favourites.

Mumbai take top spot with win over KKR

How important was Mumbai's most recent win over Kolkata?

"I've been keeping a closer eye on Mumbai than most of the other sides. With those couple of losses they had in a row, I was starting to worry about a bit of a trend (developing). But then they bucked that trend with a good win in their last game. Knowing the environment in Mumbai, there is a lot of pressure on that team. They've seemed to manage that pretty well this year, only the four losses for the tournament (and) finished on top."

Punter's key players: 

"The one thing about Mumbai which is a real positive for them going into these semis is Rohit Sharma probably hasn't had the best tournament just yet. There's been little glimpses of some really good stuff but otherwise he's been a little bit down. Knowing they've got someone like him that if he clicks with the rest of the guys playing the way they are, then they're a formidable line-up. They'll have (Lasith) Malinga, (Mitchell) McClenaghan (and) Kieron Pollard has done really good things for them as well. Ambati Rayudu came into the side and made 60-odd not out and pretty much won the game (against KKR) for them. He's an experienced played who's been out with a groin injury for most of the season."

Rising Pune Supergiant

Steve Smith's side stormed into second spot with a resounding win over Kings XI Punjab on Sunday, but will be without crucial overseas stars Ben Stokes and Imran Tahir due to international commitments. They face Mumbai in a qualifier on Tuesday, with the winner to progress directly to the IPL final.

Super Stokes seals match-winning ton

Can RPS cover the departures of Stokes and Tahir? 

"They're huge losses aren't they? They know at the start of the season when they pick a guy like Stokes that they're not going to be available for the important games of the tournament. Tahir's been really good again. Once again, taken lots of wickets, his economy rate has been down, he'll be as a big a loss as Stokes. Trying to replace quality spinners in your line up is really difficult. They're two huge outs for RPS going into that semi-final."

Punter's key players: 

"(Dan) Christian is probably going to have to step up more now with Stokes not being there, he might get more of an opportunity up the order. And he'll probably have to bowl his four overs now as well, so it'll be interesting to see how they cope with that. But they've got (Ajinkya) Rahane at the top, a very experienced player, Steve Smith slots in at number three. MS (Dhoni) as well who probably hasn't had the best tournament just yet but he really enjoys these bigger moments as most experienced players do. They'll need all their best players to really stand up if they're going to win that game."

Sunrisers Hyderabad

With four wins from their past six games, the reigning IPL champions appear to be the form team heading into the playoffs. The Sunrisers' opening pair of David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan are the two leading run-scorers in this year's tournament, while their pace ace Bhuvneshwar Kumar is the leading wicket-taker.

Warner guides Sunrisers into finals

Are the Sunrisers peaking at just the right time?

"I'm a big believer in tournament play and trying to find a way to create that bit of momentum going into the finals. All the big World Cups and Champions Trophies I played in, that was always a focus of ours in the Australian cricket team. Not necessarily being at your absolute peak for the start of the tournament because trying to maintain that for eight of nine weeks of an IPL is near-on impossible. I like the trajectory they're on."

Punter's key players: 

"Sunrisers have built and built, and they're playing their best cricket now. I'd rather be in that camp rather than a team that had a lost a few going into the finals. Whether they planned that or not … but they've got a lot of experience in Warner, (Yuvraj) Singh, Shikhar Dhawan. Even Rashid Khan has come in and done really well for them. They've got most bases covered. Moises (Henriques) has probably been that little bit of glue … they're a really well balanced team."

Kolkata Knight Riders

The Knight Riders have lost their past two matches heading into the playoffs, tumbling from second to fourth after their defeat to Mumbai and find themselves facing an in-form Hyderabad outfit in a do-or-die elimination final.

Lynnsanity strikes Punjab with another brutal blitz

Can Kolkata bounce back from recent defeats?

"I think it will be (tough for them to beat Sunrisers), a lot will rest on their top-order. But as far as (the most) consistent teams through the IPL, they've been as good as anybody. They haven't changed their squad much at all through the years. If you look at the core of their side, it's been very similar for a long period of time."

Punter's key players: 

Interestingly enough, getting Chris Lynn back into their side has probably disrupted things more than anything else. They've had to completely reshuffle their batting order – Lynn and (Sunil) Narine have opened, and (Gautam) Gambhir and (Robin) Uthappa have batted three and four. Gambhir and Uthappa have been a really consistent opening combination for a really long time. It's obvious KKR are putting more emphasis on their Power Play overs, you probably can't argue with what they've done because Narine has been very dynamic on a couple of occasions and 'Lynny' has been at his power-hitting best a few times as well. It will be interesting to see if they revert back to a more conventional way in the semi-finals.

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