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Being there not enough

It all boils down to who is in top two, which ensures one less match on road to final; both teams want to win. Nikhilesh Bhattacharya reports. Match box

cricket Updated: May 22, 2011 01:53 IST
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya

The rain was pelting down when the Kolkata Knight Riders team arrived at Eden Gardens on Saturday evening, washing away their practice session and giving the players and support staff a chance to catch the action taking place in Dharamsala on TV.

"To be honest, I was not following the match (from the start), though I caught a bit of it downstairs," Knight Riders' coach Dav Whatmore said at the press conference while Kings XI Punjab was making a mess of a big chase against the Deccan Chargers and thus blowing their chances of making the last four. "But I think the players must have been keeping an eye on it," Whatmore added. The defeat of the Kings XI in Dharamsala ensured that Sunday's match between KKR and MI is no longer a battle for playoff berths.

They are both through to the last four, along with defending champions Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore, who play each other in Sunday's early match. The focus now shifts to who will finish in the top two, because they will get two chances to make the final while anyone who finishes third of fourth must win three matches in a row to win this season's Indian Premier League.

New challenge

This is the first time in four seasons that the Knight Riders have made it to the last four. While describing the mood in the Knight Riders' camp as "upbeat" and "buoyant", Whatmore also charted their new challenge.

"We have been saying we want to finish in the top two for some time now." It is something that skipper Gautam Gambhir, who has done wonders in his first season in charge, has been harping on as well.

Whether they finish in the top two or not, of course, depends on what happens in the Royal Challengers-Super Kings match and how the weather holds up in Kolkata on Sunday.

Plus the Knight Riders will be up against a team they have beaten only once and that too when the Mumbai Indians fielded a second-string side at the Eden last year. However, Sachin Tendulkar's side is in the middle of a terrible slump that had threatened to block its progress to the playoffs till the Kings XI charge lost steam on Saturday.

The rain meant the Mumbai Indians did not even come to Eden Gardens for the pre-match practice session and press conference and in all likelihood they were hooked on to the TV screens at the team hotel.

Sunday's matches will give the four top teams an opportunity to test themselves against potential opponents in the maze of qualifiers and eliminators the business end of IPL 4 comprises. And in front of what is expected to be a full house, the Knight Riders will look to keep their momentum going, while the visitors will search for theirs.