Ganguly goes up against Kolkata
Thursday, May 19, Navi Mumbai
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
Going into their last two league games, Kolkata Knight Riders' task is not as clear as they would like it to be: if Kings XI Punjab lose their last game, Kolkata can make the play-offs even if they lose both their matches. If Punjab win, though, Kolkata might need two wins to be assured of a spot in the final four. Sourav Ganguly - the biggest player to emerge from Kolkata and a name that was synonymous with their franchise until the most recent player auction - has a chance to stop them. It happens only in the IPL.
Yet, both Ganguly and his team-mates at Pune Warriors will know that they go in as rank outsiders. Kolkata have been consistent through the season, with their big-ticket players pulling their weight at different stages. The domestic Indian players have played their part too, especially Iqbal Abdulla and Manoj Tiwary. Pune, on the other hand, are out of contention after suffering an early-season slump that spanned seven successive losses. Ganguly looked like a batsman who hadn't held a bat in 12 months in his first outing, and fell for a duck in his second. Does Pune's campaign have a sting in its tail? Kings XI Punjab will be hoping it does, since a Kolkata defeat will keep their chances alive.
Form guide (most recent first)
Kolkata: LWLWW (fourth in points table)
Pune: LWWLL (ninth in points table)
Kolkata have seemed keen to open with Eoin Morgan, though the move has had little success. Morgan is not with the team anymore, and Shakib Al Hasan might be the one coming in for him. Given the lack of muscle in the middle order - excluding Yusuf Pathan - Gautam Gambhir might consider moving himself up the order.
Pune will mull over the option of replacing Bhuvneshwar Kumar with Shrikant Wagh, who was impressive at the DY Patil in the initial part of the season. Will Ganguly continue to play at No. 3?
Predict the playing XIs for this match. Play ESPNcricinfo Team Selector.
In the spotlight
Time is running out for Robin Uthappa to deliver returns on the tremendous investment Pune made on him. He has scored 252 runs in 12 innings, but has not produced a single half-century. He has paraded all his shots this season, without displaying the right kind of shot-selection.
Brett Lee has set up a few sparkling mini-battles with Uthappa in the past - a league match in the 2007 CB series, and a 2010 IPL fixture being the most notable. There's something irresistible about a contest between a fast bowler who likes to bowl straight, and a batsman who likes to hit it back, just as straight. Who will triumph when they clash on Thursday?
- Kolkata haven't hit enough sixes this year. Tiwary, with 12, is their leading six-hitter but he is only 14th on the overall list. Yusuf has only managed 11.
- Rahul Sharma is the third-highest wicket-taker this season, with 16 wickets. He has also been the most economical bowler (5.33 per over) among those who have at least six wickets.
"We need one win from two games and that's all I will be telling the team. I'm not obsessed with the points table. Our priority right now is to get the two points on Thursday."
Can Pune deny Gautam Gambhir the two points he seeks?
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo