The 2014 Indian Premier League playoff participants are defined by their success at the crease. Each of the Kings XI Punjab, the Kolkata Knight Riders, Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians feature prolific hitters.
For Kolkata and Mumbai, star batsmen played key roles in backing their teams into the playoffs. But Kolkata Knight Riders ace Yusuf Pathan and Mumbai Indians star Corey Anderson aren't the only players who might rack up the runs during the first qualifier and the eliminator.
Stars like Kings XI Punjab smasher Glenn Maxwell and Chennai Super Kings heavy hitter Dwayne Smith can dominate, provided they can outwit a number of crafty bowlers.
Here are the top IPL batsmen and bowlers entering the playoffs:
Robin Uthappa, Kolkata Knight Riders
Pathan stole the headlines in Kolkata's final game against Sunrisers Hyderabad. His 72 runs from 22 balls launched the Knight Riders into the first qualifier, per India Times reporter Saran Bhalerao.
But despite Pathan's late heroics, Robin Uthappa has been Kolkata's man of the season. The Orange Cap leader has been consistently brilliant at the wicket.
Uthappa has hit the half-century mark on five separate occasions, as well as amassing 613 runs, per IPLT20.com. The right-hander is not defined by his ability to smash a delivery out of the stadium, but he is that rare thing in T20 play: a consistent striker.
With Uthappa in the order, the Knight Riders command respect.
Dwayne Smith, Chennai Super Kings
The Chennai batting lineup is inconsistent, but Dwayne Smith can usually be relied upon to compile runs in chunks. That's mostly thanks to his knack for smashing balls to the boundary and beyond.
Smith has tallied 46 fours and 34 sixes this season, per figures from IPLT20.com. Smith will take chances and can be goaded into reckless decisions at the wicket.
But he has chosen the right stroke more often than not this season. Smith's high risk, high reward style makes him a genuine danger in a playoff format.
Manan Vohra, Kings XI Punjab
Manan Vohra is the second batsman on this list who probably won't be classed as a major hitter. Instead, he is a stylish opening batsman who is terrific at setting the platform for smashers like Maxwell and David Miller.
But even as an opener, Vohra will seize the initiative more than most. He has hit 20 fours this season, per IPLT20.com.
If Vohra starts solidly against the Knight Riders at Eden Gardens, Kolkata will be in trouble, with Maxwell and Miller still to come.
Sunil Narine, Kolkata Knight Riders
Of course, if any one of Vohra, Maxwell or Miller are going to dominate in the first qualifier, they'll have to outlast Sunil Narine. He's taken 20 wickets this season, according to IPLT20.com.
The crafty spinner has a knack for bowling dangerous off-spin that routinely confounds batsmen. That makes him a tricky opponent on the dusty surface at Eden Gardens.
Even so, it's hard to look beyond Kings XI's batting line-up as the most decisive element of the game. Six times this season, they've scored 190 or more, and three of those scores came in successful chases. They are yet to lose a game batting second. Batting first, they have failed to cross 150 only twice.
Both those sub-150 scores, however, came against Knight Riders. Two matches is too small a sample size from which to draw conclusive evidence that Knight Riders know the formula to keep Glenn Maxwell and his mates quiet, but given the bowling attack at their disposal and the fact that they are playing at home, you could see it happening again.
Mohit Sharma, Chennai Super Kings
After Narine and Sunrisers ace Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma is the next most prolific wicket-taker in the IPL, having claimed 19 this season, per the league's official site.
While Narine claims his victims via devilish spin, Sharma comes at the batsmen with his skiddy seamers.
The Super Kings star often pitches his deliveries a little short. That can catch out the overly eager batsmen determined to wind up for the big hit. There are more than a few of those in T20 cricket.
Sharma will undoubtedly cause problems for the Mumbai batting order in the eliminator.
These five players represent some of the IPL's best talent at their respective positions. Be sure to study their performances during the season's decisive games.