As is so often the case when the Prince of Kolkata is involved, all talk leading up to a match involves him. In the latest instance, the talking point is Sourav Ganguly's right ankle, which he twisted while in the middle of leading the Kolkata Knight Riders’ latest renaissance. As of late on Friday evening, the news was that Ganguly was good to play, and the opposition were taking no chances.
“We’ll prepare as though he's going to play. He’s a key player and at this stage, I think he’ll play," said Rahul Dravid, who has known Ganguly for the best part of two decades. Ganguly took active part in KKR's training session, in which another important player, left-arm spinner Murali Kartik, also went through the paces while still recovering from a groin niggle.
For the Bangalore team, though, the challenge ahead is a slightly different one. After a roaring start to the tournament, they find themselves in a situation where they need to win at least three of their last four matches. If the early part of the tournament was spent trying to garner momentum and string together a sequence of wins, the back half could become all about mastering familiar circumstances. The advantage for the Royal Challengers is that they've been in exactly the same situation in past editions of the IPL.
If the good times are spent bringing teams together, it is adversity that shows just how united a team is. "This tournament is only six-seven weeks, but the bonds that you form grow through the year," explained Dravid. "You obviously talk about cricket with guys who have played at the highest level. But the important thing is the moments you share, happy events and the disappointments, like yesterday. We should have defended 184 and when we lost, every individual in the dressing room felt bad. Irrespective of the nationality, the disappointment was the same."
It's this spirit that the Royal Challengers are looking to fall back on, for they haven't done any one particular thing --- batting, bowling or fielding --- badly, in this tournament. They've struggled to push on and seal the deal on a couple of occasions, but on others have lifted themselves from situations that could have ended in defeat.
With every ticket in the house sold well in advance, and two teams desperate for a win that will help point them to the semis, there's no shortage of needle in this contest.