When Sunrisers Hyderabad host Kolkata Knight Riders in the last of the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013 opening-stage games in Uppal on Sunday (May 19), they would already know whether they are safely in the playoffs or not. It's simple: if Royal Challengers Bangalore beat Chennai Super Kings in the late match on Saturday, they will join Hyderabad on 18 points, that too with a better Net Run Rate; if Chennai beat Bangalore or points are shared, Hyderabad are through.
From Kolkata's point of view, it's an inconsequential game, their defence of the IPL title having gone up in smoke a long time ago. But like Pune Warriors India scuttled their slim, almost improbable chances at qualification in Ranchi earlier this week, Kolkata could put a spanner in Hyderabad's works in case it is a must-win game for them.
Not that it's a likely outcome based on recent history: Kolkata have lost six out of the seven matches they have played away, while Hyderabad have lost just one the seven they have hosted so far.
Often, of course, history counts for nothing in these circumstances. Men like Jacques Kallis, Gautam Gambhir, Sunil Narine and others are proud cricketers. They know that they have performed well below potential this season after having won the crown in 2012. They might not really get anywhere on the points table but in their last appearance in IPL 2013, they would want to do something to remember them by.
Usually in IPL VI, their batting and bowling units have failed to fire together. The batting has been dependent on Gambhir and Kallis, while the bowling has worked when Sunil Narine and Sachithra Senanayake, the spin twins, have done well in tandem. Those trends haven't changed in 15 games - will it change in the 16th? The positive for Kolkata, however, has been the emergence of Ryan ten Doeschate and the re-emergence of Yusuf Pathan with the bat in recent times, albeit only on occasion.
But Hyderabad, who have punched well above their weight in winning nine out of their 15 games, will remember that when the two teams played at Eden Gardens in the first leg, not only did Kolkata win, they won by a whopping 48 runs. It was one of the few occasions when Kolkata's batting clicked, with Gambhir, Kallis and Eoin Morgan all making contributions, and Kallis then starred in the Hyderabad innings with figures of 3 for 13.
It was also a day when the Hyderabad bowling unit, usually so brilliant - individually and together - faltered. But, at this stage of the tournament, would you rather remember that or the fact that among all the teams, the Hyderabad bowlers have been the most miserly, conceding just 2076 runs in 15 games?
Indeed, while Hyderabad's most successful batsman in the tournament, Parthiv Patel, slots in only at 29th spot on the run-scorers' chart, three of their regular bowlers - Dale Steyn, Amit Mishra and Karan Sharma - have economy rates of under seven-an-over; Steyn is actually going at 5.63. The only not-so-bright spot is Ishant Sharma, who started the tournament well but has since tapered off and been expensive at times. Thisara Perera and Darren Sammy have also been on the expensive side, but they make up for it by being the two biggest hitters in the batting line-up, where Shikhar Dhawan has been quite the star.
Clearly, Hyderabad will have more to play for irrespective of the Bangalore v Chennai result. But Kolkata, wounded and hurting, might just have more to prove than Hyderabad, and that might make this a most intriguing encounter.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Cameron White (capt), Kumar Sangakkara Akshat Reddy, Amit Mishra, Anand Rajan, Ankit Sharma, Ashish Reddy, Biplab Samantray, Cameron White, Chris Lynn, Dale Steyn, Darren Sammy, D B Ravi Teja, G H Vihari, Ishant Sharma, Karan Sharma, Nathan McCullum, Pathiv Patel (wk), Prasanth Padmanabhan, Quinton de Cock, Sachin Rana, Shikhar Dhawan, Sudeep Tyagi, T Sargunam, Thisara Perera, Veer Pratap Singh.
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, Brett Lee, Eoin Morgan, Jacques Kallis, Ryan McLaren, Ryan ten Doeschate, Sachithra Senanayeke, Sunil Narine, Sumit Narwal, Paras Dogra.