Bangalore: Having lost four games on the trot in the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League, Pune Warriors will have to pull up their socks and perform as a team when they take on a confident Royal Challengers Bangalore at the M Chinnaswamy stadium on Friday.
The eight-wicket defeat to Chennai Super Kings at Mumbai in their previous game has put the Warriors in a tricky position.
With barely two wins from six matches and languishing at the ninth position with only four points, they can't afford to lose anymore matches.
Warriors now require to approach the next three games with a must-win attitude if they harbour hopes of qualifying for the semifinal play-offs.
Three successive wins would ensure that they have ten points from nine games before the competition turns stiffer for the top four positions.
Having a well-rounded and resourceful team with a good sprinkling of stars, makes the side look unbeatable on paper. But performance is what matters and that is something that Yuvraj Singh would have to drive into his beleaguered boys.
Back-to-back defeats to Mahendra Singh Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings has undoubtedly demoralised the team that was gathering steam and confidence at the start of the cash-rich tournament.
Except for Yuvraj Singh and Robin Uthappa, the rest of the batsmen haven't really got going. The top order has been an absolute failure with Monish Mishra, Jesse Ryder and Manish Pandey have done precious little in the last two games against the Super Kings.
Scores of 122 (vs Mumbai Indians), 128 and 141 (against Chennai Super Kings) in the last three matches reflects their batting woes.
Only if they perform as a batting unit, can the Warriors hope to keep themselves in the race for the play-offs. Their bowling has come good in the last three games. They made Mumbai Indians sweat for a last ball win when they were chasing a measly 122.
Alfonso Thomas, Jerome Taylor, Murali Kartik and Rahul Sharma had done well to keep the Super Kings on tight leash. But their effort needs to complemented by their batsmen. On the other hand, Royal Challengers, who struggled at the start of the championship, have gained confidence from their victories over Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Daredevils.
With the likes of Chris Gayle, Tillakaratne Dilshan, AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli and Saurabh Tiwary in its rank, the RCB has got a power-packed batting line up, which can raise alarm bells in any opposition camp.
But with pace spearhead Zaheer Khan looking out of sorts, the team's bowling continues to remain the weakest link. Though captain Daniel Vettori has been a standout bowler, domestic recruits Syed Mohammad and Sreenath Arvind have performed reasonably well. Yet the Bangalore team lacks a genuine wicket-taking bowler.
With seven points from seven games, Daniel Vettori's boys would be looking to score their third successive win and strengthen their chances of qualifying for the all-important play-offs.
But in a game of uncertainty, they cannot afford to take Pune Warriors lightly.
Pune Warriors: Yuvraj Singh (capt.), Robin Uthappa (wk), Murali Kartik, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Deeraj Jadhav, Eklavya Dwivedi, Ganesh Gaikwad, Harpreet Singh Bhatia, Harshad Khadiwale, Kamran Khan, Mithun Manhas, Mohnish Mishra, Rahul Sharma, Sachin Rana, Shrikant Wagh, Shrikant Mundhe, Imtiyaz Ahmed, Jesse Ryder, Graeme Smith, Wayne Parnell, Alphonso Thomas. Tim Paine, Callum Ferguson, Mitchell Marsh, Jerome Taylor, James Faulkner.
Royal Challengers Bangalore: Daniel Vettori (capt), Mayank Agarwal, Sreenath Aravind, Arun Karthik, BN Bharath, Raju Bhatkal, AB de Villiers, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Nuwan Pradeep, Muralidharen Gautam, Chris Gayle, Mohammad Kaif, Abrar Kazi, Zaheer Khan, Virat Kohli, Charl Langeveldt, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ryan Ninan, Asad Pathan, Luke Pomersbach, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rilee Rossouw, Jamaluddin Syed Mohammad, Saurabh Tiwary, Johan van der Wath, Jonathan Vandiar.