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IPL 2022: Champion Gujrat Titans: An Extraordinary Team of Standard Players Under a New Leader

On their First Season of the IPL (2022), Gujrat Titans Lifts the Trophy under New Captain Hardik Pandya with light support and belief from the outside world.

The history from the inaugural season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been repeated. Back then, it was the on-paper scratchy Rajasthan Royals who wore the crown under the leadership of their first Royal, Shane Warne amidst all other fancy teams. Now after 15 years, it’s Gujarat who clinches the trophy; a team that did not assemble the best squad out of all other ten teams under a captain that had no captaincy experience and yet have placed their hands on the grand prize in their very first edition into the IPL.

They did not look potential champions on paper but in cricket that’s the beauty; the game isn’t played on the paper; you can defy the odds and win it! That’s what they have done on May 29, in front of an adoring public of hundred thousand people! Its magnificent and a hard occasion to be replicated!

Let’s take a deeper look to understand what this team did better from the rest!

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Gujarat Titans’ Fresh Recruits for IPL 2022:

Gujarat Titans came into the IPL 2022 mega auction having retained the likes of Hardik Pandya as their skipper and opted for a world-class spinner in Rashid Khan as well. Shubman Gill was the third retention for the side which left the franchise with a purse amount of 52 Crores while coming into the mega event.

They bought just one player from the marquee list and managed to bag the services of Indian star fast bowler Mohammad Shami at a price of INR 6.25 crore after intense bidding.

Gujrat Titans had work out well in picking up the overseas players, however, their Indian batting looked inexperienced and did not have a strong core with Hardik playing the finisher role. Rahul Tewatia had been brought for a huge price of INR 9 crore while another all-rounder Vijay Shankar had also been grabbed by the franchise. Karnataka lad Abhinav Sadarangani also got a look in for the first time in IPL for a hefty amount as well.

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Fast Bowlers and the Trick of Lifting the Trophy:

The franchise also invested in some serious pace attack with Lockie Ferguson for a whopping amount of INR 10 crore. Alzarri Joseph who did really well recently against India was picked up while young seamer Yash Dayal was expected to act as a backup for Shami. Former Chennai Super Kings spinner Sai Kishore attracted intense bidding owing to his brilliant performances in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in 2021-22 season. They also bought in David Miller who have been till 2021 an absolute flop except for his sole goliath season in 2014.

All in all, the squad looked pretty average if compared to the others at the auction table. They also missed out on Jason Roy for this year. Owing to this every pundit of the game rated the team quite below in the ranking order. If asked now( After the finals) whether they believed in Titans to be the champion side, anybody who answers with a yes , just put them under the lie detector and see how they fail miserably!

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But what was important was the belief they had on themselves, the belief which made them dominate the league stage, the qualifier-1 and the finals!

The Promising Titan Bowlers:

Gujarat were the best bowling team in the powerplay this year. Being a good bowling team isn’t as lucrative as some hitter slapping the ball everywhere. But averaging 26 with the ball at the top is huge, wickets at the top matter more than any others.

Mohammad Shami took 11 powerplay wickets, equal best with Mukesh Choudhary at the top of the IPL. He averaged 24, just a brilliant outcome. No one else was anywhere near that good.

Despite Lockie Ferguson’s bad year, he took six wickets up the top. Yash Dayal took another five as well. That’s a good combination overall.

Welcome to the world of Rashid Khan- the Sorcerer:

Ferguson and Shami did go for runs at the end, Joseph and Dayal did well with limited opportunities. Still , they were spectacular at the death because Rashid Khan went at less than a run a ball there. And he bowled 17 overs, one more than Shami did, and conceded almost half the number of runs. He carried the entire bowling line up to better figures.

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In eight overs in the two playoff matches [against Royals in qualifier-1 and Finals], Rashid conceded only one boundary, that too thanks to a mis fielding. More incredibly, there were zero boundary attempts against him. Twenty per cent of an innings is too long a cease fire, but Rashid left Royals no choice. That’s because teams prefer to sit in when he bowls. And Rashid, like someone who truly gets T20, doesn’t go chasing individual glory. He keeps creating wickets for his team-mates.

Miller-Tewatia Combo was too Hot to Handle:

It is again the death with the bat that matters to them. Having converted Hardik Pandya to an anchor largely having no skilled blasting top three. So, they tend to bat within themselves all the way through the innings and then press turbo at the death. If they weren’t such a good bowling team, this would actually mean they are regularly struggling to stay afloat. And in some ways, they only had two batters at the death, but the thing is, those two happened to make the first and fifth most runs at the ends of games this year. If you just look at their batting in total. It’s David Miller who stands out.

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They didn’t really have that many incredible years with the bat, and surely, he was not the one they were expecting.  His ability to end up with so many runs despite coming in at five while still striking well has been the key. And being that last year was his second-worst season, how on earth could you have expected this? Their batting was solid, not sensational.

Rahul Tewatia and their luck 

But they got two other surprising years as well. Rahul Tewatia’s numbers are brilliant considering where he bats, averaging over 30 and striking near 150. Him and Miller made a perfect number five and six punch. They spent a lot of money on an all-rounder who actually couldn’t bowl.

And then there is Hardik with the anchor season. It surely isn’t the ideal plan but with Miller and Tewatia playing as they were, they needed one other guy to make runs. It probably should have been one of the other guys like Gill in the top three. But they couldn’t do it, and Hardik either decided to change, or just did so naturally. So, what you end up with is three players at four, five and six making huge amounts of runs.

Hardik Pandya in a new avatar with his new cool skills:

Usually in T20 the two openers make the most, then number three and four are clumped together, and numbers five and six are miles off. But you look for Gujarat and their number four was their top scorer, and their number five was third. Captain Hardik basically anchored the innings for Gujarat making almost 19.3% of the total runs for the team.

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But the most important thing is in the fact that Hardik Pandya could bowl, but they used him as the sixth option. And they barely had to, and he took wickets and didn’t go for runs on the few times he bowled. That meant he was confident and rested when he delivered in the final. Considering his body, the rest was probably more important.

A Season to Remember for the Titans:

This surely has been an intriguing season for every close observer of cricket to watch what Gujarat made possible with a not so flashy team that would be written off the table many times. Gujarat who made those crucial wickets happen, you look at them all year and know – they have kept pressure on teams with the ball. With the bat, it’s been the middle order.

That overachieving middle-order got them to the final, and their sixth bowler who they never really needed dismissed Jos Buttler at the finals. Despite Rahul Tewatia’s high price tag, this year they only bowled him in six overs, and in the finals, he didn’t bat or bowl. In fact, he made two runs in their final four matches. Think about that, the high price all-rounder they bought who completely over performed with the bat, and whose bowling was just as bad, didn’t do a thing in the finals. And it didn’t matter. That is when you know things are going your way.

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Basically, what Gujarat displayed is solid teamwork! Whenever a loophole got exposed, somebody put their hand up and did the job of filling it quite efficiently. And yes, with some handful ‘luck’ powder in their pockets they managed to have a brilliant 2022! Whether they remain the same next year or suffer from second season syndrome is something we have to see but for the given year they deserve to be celebrated for the extraordinary they have achieved!

Whatever happens, It’s going to be the same situation for Gujrat Titans, who will try to stretch their legacy.

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