The task for Bangalore is straight and simple - beat Deccan and walk through the door to the playoffs.
The worst-case scenario in a team game is when you rely on other teams' results to progress in a tournament. And to escape from that situation, Royal Challengers Bangalore's sole aim on Sunday will be to keep party poopers Deccan Chargers at bay, go to 19 points and sneak through to the playoffs on the last day of the league phase in IPL 5.
Deccan have already crashed Rajasthan Royal's IPL 5 campaign, and Kumar Sangakkara's men would be itching to inflict the same damage on Bangalore. But comparing Rajasthan to Bangalore, there is a yawning gap in terms of the challenge that Rajasthan posed and Bangalore will pose to Deccan.
Running an eye over Bangalore's squad, nothing's even half as intimidating as Chris Gayle. And the numbers associated with the Caribbean prowler are cause enough to bring beads of sweat to one's forehead: a staggering 706 runs at a derailing strike rate of over 158, including a 62-ball 128 and seven half-centuries punctuated with - hold your breath - 57 sixes and 43 fours. It will only be a pity if the IPL 5 playoffs remain unsupplied of such saturation bombing.
While the fact that Bangalore do well whenever Gayle fires holds true, they have other meaty names in the line-up who can be nearly, if not equally, as damaging on their day. Virat Kohli displayed it in his 204-run unbroken stand with Gayle against Delhi, whereas Tillakaratne Dilshan and AB de Villiers gave a demo of the same when they knocked out Deccan during the home leg. However, one has to accept that there's not much in RCB's batting line-up beyond these four, with the likes of Saurabh Tiwary and Mayank Agarwal – bar one stirring innings - failing to make use of their opportunities.
The four-foreigner cap has forced the regular RCB skipper Daniel Vettori to sit out of the XI; but to the credit of their think-tank, the move to replace Vettori with Muttiah Muralitharan has had a lasting impact. The Sri Lankan may not have set the cat amongst the pigeons but he has broken through on vital occasions and has been pivotal in bringing RCB's campaign back on track. So it's difficult to see Vettori coming back even in this must-win scenario. And Zaheer Khan – with 15 wickets in his kitty – remains their spearhead, guiding fellow medium-pacer Harshal Patel along the way.
Deccan's best hope, though, relies on their toughest task – getting rid of RCB's top four. In Dale Steyn, they have a bowler who can rip apart any batting line-up. The problem, however, remains the lack of support from the other end. Manpreet Gony and Veer Pratap Singh are not the pedigree that could out-think, if not dismiss, the likes of Gayle, Dilshan, Kohli and de Villiers – which is exactly the reason behind Deccan tailing off in IPL 5. It seems more disappointing when their batting showed signs of hitting its groove.
Opener Shikhar Dhawan's 564 runs are the second-highest in the tournament, with Cameron White at the sixth position with 478 runs. Add these two to Deccan's big-ticket batsman Sangakkara and the South African JP Duminy, and you get a more than decent grouping in the top order. Regular skipper Sangakkara didn't feature in the win against Rajasthan, but he is expected to replace Chris Lynn in the team's last match of the season.
Looking at the big picture, RCB will have more than a win on mind, as it not only will get them into the playoffs but shift the squad's focus from what's happening off the field to the real job in hand.
Deccan Chargers: 1 Akshath Reddy, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Cameron White, 4 Kumar Sangakkara (capt), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Parthiv Patel (wk), 7 Ashish Reddy, 8 Amit Mishra, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Manpreet Gony, 11 Veer Pratap Singh
Royal Challengers Bangalore: 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 AB de Villiers (wk), 5 Saurabh Tiwary, 6 Mayank Agarwal, 7 R Vinay Kumar, 8 Zaheer Khan, 9 Harshal Patel, 10 Prasanth Parameswaran, 11 Muttiah Muralitharan