IPL 2022: Hardik Pandya-led Gujarat Titans followed ‘teamwork’ template to lift Indian Premier League (IPL) trophy in debut season.
As the short ball sailed over the square leg region from the bat of Shubman Gill, players from the camp of Gujarat Titans (GT) rushed into the middle as the home crowd at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad roared loudly; amidst all the frenzy, their captain Hardik Pandya calmly strolled into the middle.
In a T20 league, which already has some battle-hardened franchises, coming as a new side, to understand the atmosphere with players getting used to the new team environment, it really takes time but to win the Indian Premier League (IPL) trophy under a new captain in their maiden season is quite another thing and GT managed just that.
A cool structure under Hardik Pandya’s leadership with Kirsten-Nehra duo in the management
Two new franchises were announced as new joinees into IPL 2022 – RPSG-owned Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) and the CVC Capital Partners-owned Gujarat Titans (GT). Hardik Pandya was appointed as GT captain and Afghanistan’s star spinner Rashid Khan earnt a place in the side for a price of INR 15 crore. They also earned the services of India batter Shubman Gill for a decent price of INR 8 crore.
Some of their other excellent inclusions were those of Gary Kirsten as batting coach and mentor and Ashish Nehra as their head coach, both of whom brought a calm atmosphere in the set-up and the latter’s relationship with captain Hardik Pandya was one of the reasons for the success of Gujarat Titans in the last season of the marquee league.
It was also a brave decision from the team management to appoint Hardik Pandya as skipper since he was going through a very rough patch in his international career at that point with all the continuous injuries. But he began the journey with the leadership cap in the best way lifting the IPL trophy in his very first season as captain.
“The philosophy for this season is that success is theirs (players), failure is mine,” Pandya expressed at their team’s jersey launch.
Gujarat found different match-winners in their whole IPL 2022 journey
One of the main aspects on these long tournaments is to find different match-winners from the side in different conditions; when one is falling, the other one needs to step up and Gujarat Titans found eight different players winning player-of-the-match awards during the season. Add to that, during their debut journey, GT lost only four of their 16 matches enroute the tittle winning campaign, the fewest losses in a season after inaugural champion Rajasthan Royals’ three in 2008.
Titans started their IPL journey with three comfortable wins over LSG, Delhi Capitals (DC) and Punjab Kings (PBKS); against the Kings, it was Rahul Tewatia who with two back-to-back sixes snatched victory from the jaws of Punjab.
After being handed their first defeat of the IPL by the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), the Titans got back to the winning track with five back-to-back victories; in that five winning game streak, they showed composure as a team against the Chennai Super Kings (CSK). They were 87/5 at the 13th over-mark chasing a huge score of 171, before the 70-run sixth wicket stand shared between David Miller who contributed with 94* as Rashid Khan’s 40 in 21 balls carried them over the line with an over to spare.
There were little fumbles in the middle of their season but the panic button wasn’t pressed at all, as they topped the group stage with 10 wins in 14 games. In the first qualifier against the Rajasthan Royals (RR), without much noise, they calmly chased 191 to qualify for the finals. Four days later against the same opponents, after reducing them to a low score of just 130, the batters again calmly chased the score with seven wickets in hand to lift the trophy in their very first season.
Balanced between fire and calmness in the batting order
The moment Gujarat Titans caught hold of the services of Shubman Gill, it was almost known that the young India opener would open the innings for them and unlike his previous team, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Gill was given full freedom to bat in his own style. It is no surprise that the right-hander ended the season as the fifth highest run-getter with 483 runs in 16 games at an average of 34.50 and strike rate of 132.32 celebrating four fifties. They also found a plan to get the best out of Abhinav Manohar who scored 108 runs for them in eight games at an explosive strike rate of 144.
The turnaround for them was the performances from the South Africa star batter David Miller who was going through a very lean phase in the IPL in its previous editions. Since 2016 to 2021, Miller scored just 655 runs in the IPL at a strike rate of 118.65 which was the second-lowest strike rate among 58 batters who have faced at least 500 balls across six IPL seasons from 2016-2021. But Miller came out in IPL 2022 with a different approach as he smacked 481 runs in 16 games at a strike rate of 142.72 including two fifties; 437 runs of those 481 came at number 5 position and lower which was the second-most by any batter in an IPL season.
Interestingly, Gujarat Titans (GT) hit just 79 sixes in IPL 2022 which was by far the lowest in the said season. This was also the first time a team with the fewest sixes in an IPL season has gone on to clinch the title.
Captain Hardik Pandya took charge of all-rounders department with Rahul Tewatia
“Obviously, when we got the auction done, it was clear that I had to bat up the order to guide (the team through the middle overs),” narrated Hardik Pandya about how important it was for him to lead the side from the front.
Hardik used to have a different job playing for the Mumbai Indians (MI); generally, he used to come with five to six overs in hand at the death, with a view to score runs at a quick rate going after all the bowlers and his batting average at the time, 27.33, with a strike rate of 153.91 for the seven IPL seasons from 2015 to 2021 also proved the same. But for his new side, he had a different job to accept and he did it very smartly.
There were instances when he used to come a bit early in the innings and looked to settle the nerves after losing two-three quick wickets before increasing the pace of the innings. He finished as the fourth-highest run-getter of the season with 487 runs in 15 games at an average of 44.27 and strike rate of 131.27, besides picking up eight wickets at an economy of just 7.27.
He was fully supported by Rahul Tewatia who managed 217 runs in 16 games at a strike rate of 147.61, besides a few memorable moments to earn victory in the final analysis.
Bowlers win tournaments - Gujarat trust time-tested formula
At the end of last year’s mega-auction 2022, five of their bowlers in the squad had a salary of just three crore or more which meant they fully trusted that they would require outstanding bowling spells throughout the whole season.
Veteran pacer Mohammed Shami was excellent for them with 20 wickets in 16 games at an economy of just 8, as Gujarat finished the season with the best bowling strike rate (21.33) in the powerplay which spoke about their knack of picking up regular wickets in the first six overs with the new ball. The pace of Lockie Ferguson was brutal too as opponent teams struggled to score against the New Zealand fast bowler.
One of their biggest weapons was Rashid Khan who has the ability to bowl in any phase of the game; teams formed a plan to play Rashid with a defensive mindset but the Afghanistan leg-spinner still ended the season with 19 wickets in 16 games at an impressive economy of 6.59. Gujarat Titans also finished the season as the best side in the death overs with an economy of 9.60.
“For me and Ashu pa (Nehra), when we were starting, we started to create a strong and experienced bowling unit,” Pandya spoke after the final.
Gujarat have fixed all the small bugs from the last season in the recently finished IPL 2023 mini-auction. The fact that they bought all the seven players on whom they bid spoke about how sharp and clear they were in their auction planning. With the addition of Kane Williamson, they have strengthened their middle order batting; given they traded Lockie Ferguson to KKR, Gujarat earned the services of Shivam Mavi and Ireland’s Josh Little who has been in great touch since ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022. The inclusion of Odean Smith will increase their batting power in the death overs.
Another season awaits the new franchise who will look to prove to the world that their maiden season win was not just a matter of chance but an instrumental outcome which came as a result of meticulous planning. IPL 2023 is expected to commence from the first week of April 2023.