So, you're a cricket fan. You've probably had a cursory glance at this year's IPL, and not really understood it. Don't worry, you're not alone. Here's the first part of the "Idiot's Guide To the IPL 2011".
The last few years, the IPL's been a pretty easy tournament to understand. There are eight teams, who all play each other twice. So 14 games per team in the groups. While it may not be the shortest tournament in the world, it was pretty easy to understand. The top four in the group stage went through to the semi-finals, before the semis and the finals determined the winners. Easy enough.
However, IPL4 (as it shall henceforth be known) isn't that simple. The addition of two new teams mean that having a double round-robin league stage simply wouldn't be feasible, as the 94 games that would entail would mean we'd be still playing IPL cricket in December. So, the organisers of the IPL in their infinite wisdom, have created what could be the single-handedly most confusing format ever. So here it is.
The two teams are split into two groups of five. Each team plays the others in their group home and away. Understandable? Good. Then, they play one of the teams of the other group (assigned by a random draw) home and away too. After that, they will also play against the other four teams in the opposite group in a one-off game.
So they'll play against five teams home and away (four from their group, plus one other), and then against the other four teams either home or away.
You may want to read through that a few times, just so you can get your head around it. I've simplified it as much as I can, but I'm still struggling to comprehend it.
Here are the groups.
The groups are used just so they can work out the fixtures, but everyone gets put into one big league table so they can work out the knockout stages. Again, this is complicated, so pay attention.
Instead of straight knockout cricket, the tournament is organised as such:
The winners of the league (1) play off against the team who came second (2) in Game A. The team who came third (3) take on the fourth team (4) in Game B.
Whoever wins Game A goes straight into the final. Whoever loses Game A, however, goes into a knockout game with the winner of Game B (which is called Game C). Whoever wins Game C faces off against the winners of Game A in the final. Get it?
Basically it's designed to reward the top teams in the league, by granting them a second chance after losing their first playoff game. Conversely, it also makes it harder for the 3rd and 4th placed league teams, as they would have to win three playoff games to take home the IPL crown.
If you still don't quite get it, here's a neat flow diagram.
Understand all of that? Don't worry if it's massively confusing, just check back to this guide, and all will be made easy. Sort of.
Come back tomorrow for your idiot's guide to the teams!