Kings XI Punjab's massive win against table toppers Royal Challengers Bangalore on Tuesday night has doubled the stakes of Thursday's Pune Warriors India versus Kolkata Knight Riders tie here at DY Patil Stadium in Nerul. (Watch)
KKR, who had all but sealed a berth in the final four with four wins from five games, are in a tight spot, having to win at least one of their last two games to qualify for next week's play-offs. (Also Read: Pune take on Kolkata)
As was expected, Sourav Ganguly playing against Kolkata remains the focal point. Pune coach Geoff Marsh said that Ganguly was keen to shine against his former team. "He is very excited to do well against his former team. This year when players were sent to other sides at the auction, they made it a point to perform against their respective former sides. I think the same applies in Sourav's case. He is looking forward to the challenge. He's still got a huge passion for the sport, wants to compete. I am hoping we get a good crowd to watch Ganguly vs his former team," he told reporters on Wednesday.
The former Australian opener warned that Ganguly and Co were keen to spoil Kolkata's party. "It's unfortunate that we can't get to the play-offs, but we can stop teams from getting there. We have a lot to play for," said the coach of the most expensive Indian Premier League franchise.
Whatmore, who is tantalizingly close to taking Kolkata past the league stages for the first time in the franchise's history, asserted that it's not a must-win situation. "It's not a do-or-die game, but important to win. We will approach it like just another game. We cannot control other results (of Punjab's). The only thing we can do is try to win and hope for the best," said the KKR coach.
For Kolkata, Manoj Tiwary (296), Jacques Kallis (358) and skipper Gautam Gambhir (312) have been in a rich vein of form, and Iqbal Abdulla along with Yusuf Pathan have combined for 25 wickets.
The KKR coach believes that has been the primary reason for the turnaround this season. "If you track our performances, most of our man of the matches have been different guys, except for Iqbal, who has won it more than once. It's been a total team effort. That's the main reason we are in the top four this year, and I can see a bright future for this franchise," said Whatmore.