"If Tewatia won't, David Miller will. If Miller won't, Rashid Khan will. If Rashid won't, someone else surely will." - Hemant Brar, via ESPNcricinfo
That's been the story for the Gujarat Titans this season. They have found different match-winners in every outing: Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha, Hardik Pandya, David Miller, Rahul Tewatia, Rashid Khan, Mohammad Shami, Lockie Ferguson and Yash Dayal.
The conclusion of the IPL 2022 mega auction brought forward many issues within the Gujarat Titans squad. Their batting looked bleak, heavily dependent on the talented yet not quite proven Shubman Gill and the injury-prone Hardik Pandya.
There was also an absence of quality all-rounders. While the trio of Shami, Ferguson and Rashid gave the Gujarat bowling a nice look, the rest of the options didn't instill confidence. Many cricket experts didn't believe the team could make the top four. Add to all of this Hardik's first captaincy stint in the league, and things did not look promising for the Ahmedabad-based franchise.
Rahul Tewatia and David Miller as the finishers
In their first match, Gujarat faced the impressive-looking Lucknow Super Giants. While chasing 159, the Titans too lost early wickets before being bailed out by Rahul Tewatia. When Tewatia was bought for a massive amount of Rs. 9 crore in this year's IPL mega auction, many people questioned his ability to provide value for money. It is safe to say that he has proven them quite wrong, smashing his way to 215 runs at a strike rate of 149.31.
Who can forget his last-over heroics against the Punjab Kings? Needing 12 off the last two deliveries, he launched Odean Smith onto the leg-side twice to complete an astonishing chase. Then there were a couple of 40s against RCB and SRH. With Hardik taking up the No. 4 slot, Tewatia has stepped up to don the finisher's role for Gujarat and has formed an effective partnership with David Miller.
"....being relaxed with Ashish Nehra and Gary Kirsten in the coaches list helped... (On Hardik) He's level-headed off the field and has managed the atmosphere excellently. Role clarity is essential, we are feeding off each other." - Miller, via Star Sports
David Miller had struggled to re-enact his initial success with the Punjab Kings (then Kings XI Punjab) until this year. He seems to have got his mojo back at Gujarat Titans as he is striking at over 140.
Coming in to bat at 16/3 against the Super Kings, he stepped up in skipper Pandya's absence and took Gujarat to victory off the penultimate ball. He ended the night on 94 not out. He led a brilliant assault on the CSK bowlers along with Rashid Khan and rightfully grabbed the Player of the Match award. He has played a number of other impactful innings this year.
Mohammad Shami and Rashid Khan are part of an imressive bowling unit
Mohammad Shami has been the powerplay-enforcer for Gujarat with 10 wickets in that phase so far. His spell against the Lucknow Super Giants halted their famed top order with Test-match lengths. Then there was his 2/20 against the Kolkata Knight Riders at the Wankhede that set the platform for a successful defense of 156 runs.
When Gujarat met LSG for the second time, Shami bowled an economical spell of 3-0-5-1 upfront, getting the wicket of the opposition's best batter. With performances like this, he has provided Hardik with both an economical and wicket-taking option up top.
While Rashid Khan has been thrashed this year a couple of times, he has made up for it with his batting performances. He already has a 40 (21) and a 31* (11) to his name, helping Gujarat win from improbable situations. All this talk about his batting has pushed his primary skill under the radar.
He is Gujarat's second-best bowler with 15 wickets at under seven an over. Some of his figures read 3/22, 2/22, 2/24 and 4/24. Economy, check. Wickets, check. That's Rashid Khan for you. And don't forget he also captained against CSK when Hardik was injured.
"We have been given positive energy from the captain, and especially the head coach Ashish bhai, I think he has kept the team in a beautiful environment. It's all about having good memories outside of the ground and then just focus on the game. We're enjoying each other's company and give 100% to enjoy the game. I'm so happy to be a part of this......." - Rashid, via Star Sports
Shubman Gill and Hardik Pandya are the top order's strength
If you think Shubman Gill can't score quickly, check this out: 96 off 59 vs PBKS and 84 off 46 vs DC. Those jabs, cuts and pulls were a treat to watch. Initially, no one was not sure if he was worth the Rs. 8 crore but he has won Gujarat three games, hasn't he?
The latest being his masterful 63* off 49 against Lucknow on a difficult pitch. He held up one end and took his team to 144, which proved to be more than enough in the end. No other batter was able to cross 27. This part of his game can prove to be a huge asset for Gujarat with the pitches slowing and wearing down. His ability to maneuvre strike and hit through the line has made him one of the players to watch out for in the knockouts.
Hardik Pandya at No. 4? But, what if he gets out early? Does he have the technique? I have believed for a long time that Hardik can make the national team as a batter alone. Put his bowling skills into the mix, he becomes irreplacable, fitness provided.
He has played like a proper top-order batter this year (at times promoting himself to one-down) with 344 runs including three half-centuries. He was also the team's designated new-ball bowler before being injured. He recently began bowling again and comfortably touched 140 clicks.
Role clarity and total support by captain and coach
If you take a look at Gujarat's campaign this year, they have had seven different players get the Player of the Match award in their nine wins. They may not have 600-run players like Buttler and Warner. Nor bowlers taking 20 wickets or more. But what has worked for Gujarat is the fact that when their players have struck, they have gone on to win the match almost single-handedly.
Be it Gill's 96, Miller's 94* or Shami's 3/25, they have admirably covered their team's defects in all departments. I agree that luck has also been a factor in Gujarat's success, but what has made the difference is the dressing room environment and role clarity.
The players have said a number of times that they are totally supported by their captain and the coach. They have been given specific roles and the management has shown complete faith in them so that they can execute those roles without worrying about their place in the team.
"My motto was I wanted everyone to be happy." - Hardik Pandya, via Star Sports
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