We might have had a mass rebellion on our hands if the players from Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore were asked to take part in anything longer than a Twenty20 match on Sunday (May 12). As it is, despite the high stakes, the cricketers will hardly be excited at the prospect of playing their Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013 match at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association stadium in furnace-like Ranchi from 4pm.
Kolkata, at 'home' in Ranchi, are currently on ten points and even if they win each of their three remaining games, they might not have enough to qualify for a spot in the playoffs. But that is no reason for not giving it their best shot; if for nothing else, then for their own reputation and for, possibly, scuttling Bangalore's chances of a top-four finish.
Bangalore, currently on 16 points and in the fourth position on the table, have a tricky last three games. After Kolkata, they play Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings at home, having lost to both those opponents in their first leg games during a horror away run. Chennai are, in any case, never the preferred opponents in a must-win situation, so a loss against Kolkata could well mar Bangalore's party.
On the face of it though, Bangalore should be the favourites for Sunday's game. When they took each other on the last time, in Bangalore, Kolkata were swept away by Chris Gayle's hit-a-minute unbeaten 85 from 50 balls, losing by eight wickets. Since then, the Gayle-Virat Kohli-AB de Villiers combination has proved too strong for most opponents, even if they have struggled to get their bowlers to fire as a unit.
Indeed, that bowling combination must be giving the team management sleepless nights. Ravi Rampaul, Vinay Kumar and Jaydev Unadkat, who replaced RP Singh in the game against Delhi Daredevils on Friday and returned a five-wicket haul, and Murali Kartik have all been impressive, but only in patches and almost never together. So much so that despite scoring 183 for 4, the bowlers allowed Delhi to get within four runs of the total; that too, after Delhi was adrift by 50 runs with three overs left to play.
There should, logically, be no change in the Bangalore playing XI for the match against Kolkata, though there could be a case for including a specialist spinner - possibly Muttiah Muralitharan - in place of Moises Henriques.
Kolkata, meanwhile, have three matches left to prove that even if they aren't one of the top sides this year, their championship win in 2012 was no fluke. After a run of poor performances, Gautam Gambhir, their captain and main batsman, looked in decent touch in their last game. That can only be good news for a team that has stuttered routinely to put runs on the board. Manvinder Bisla has fired on occasion, as has Eoin Morgan, but Jacques Kallis and Manoj Tiwary haven't, and under the circumstances, if Gambhir doesn't get going, the team often struggles to cross a run-rate of seven per over.
Unlike Bangalore, however, bowling is Kolkata's better suit, chiefly responsible for earning them the five wins that they have against their name. Sunil Narine and Sachithra Senanayeke, the lead spinners, and Rajat Bhatia and Kallis, the medium pacers, have been at the forefront of all that's gone well for Kolkata and there's no reason to believe that there will be any dip in their performance in Ranchi.
In the end, the outcome of this match could well depend on how the contest between Bangalore's batsmen and Kolkata's bowlers pans out. That's possibly where the game will be won or lost.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (capt), Debabrata Das, Iqbal Abdulla, L Balaji, Manoj Tiwary, Manvinder Bisla (wk), Shami Ahmed, Pradeep Sangwan, Rajat Bhatia, Sarabjit Singh Ladda, Yusuf Pathan, Brad Haddin (wk), Brett Lee, Eoin Morgan, Jacques Kallis, Ryan McLaren, Ryan ten Doeschate, Sachithra Senanayeke, Sunil Narine.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli (capt), KP Appanna, KL Rahul, Arun Karthik (wk), Sheldon Jackson, Murali Kartik, Zaheer Khan, Abhimanyu Mithun, Abhinav Mukund, Karun Nair, Pankaj Singh, Prashanth Parameswaran, Harshal Patel, Sandeep Warrier, RP Singh, Sunny Sohal, J Syed Mohammad, Saurabh Tiwary, Jaydev Unadkat, Vinay Kumar, Vijay Zol, Christopher Barnwell, Daniel Christian, AB de Villiers (wk), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chris Gayle, Moises Henriques, Andrew McDonald, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ravi Rampaul, Daniel Vettori.