IPL 2022 Season Review: Unfancied Gujarat Titans Defied The Odds To Secure Maiden IPL Trophy
Has there been a more dominant debutant side in the 15-year history of the Indian Premier League than the Gujarat Titans in 2022? Rajasthan Royals, led by their charismatic skipper Shane Warne in the title-winning 2008 season, could be considered a close 2nd, while the Gujrat Lions' dream run to the playoffs in the 2016 edition was impressive too.
So, it was perhaps fitting that 15 years after the legendary Australian leg-spinner guided a bunch of youngsters to the title, an equally impressive Gujarat Titans beat Warne's very own Rajasthan Royals to lift their first-ever IPL. But unlike Rajasthan's 2008 side, this victory by the Gujarat Titans had an air of inevitability to it. As the season went on, their cloak of invincibility grew stronger, even though the Titans actually lost more games than the Royals in 2008.
The Gujarat-based franchise endured its fair share of difficulties, especially prior to the tournament. In the lead-up to the auction, the owners of the franchise CVC Capital Partners faced an investigation from the BCCI for their alleged links to betting companies and firms, which put their auction plans in disarray.
After the eight regular teams confirmed their retentions, it was the Lucknow Super Giants and the Gujarat Titans' turn to choose their draft picks. The owners were adamant that a team from Gujarat should have a captain from that very state and they didn't need to look beyond Hardik Pandya. For the second and third picks, they bought former Sunrisers Hyderabad player Rashid Khan and the highly-rated Shubman Gill respectively.
For all of Hardik Pandya's all-round abilities and his experience of playing for the national side, his appointment as skipper was a huge gamble. He has been in and out of the Indian set-up and hasn't set the world alight with his performances for his past employers - Mumbai Indians over the last two years. Most importantly, he hasn't bowled for quite a while due to a recurring shoulder injury.
Coming to the support staff, the appointments of Ashish Nehra as Head Coach and Vikram Solanki as the Director of Cricket were crucial. Gary Kirsten was also roped in as a mentor. These appointments raised quite a few eyebrows as both Nehra and Kirsten had some unsuccessful spells at Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Delhi Capitals.
Gujarat Titans were banking on a fit and ready Hardik Pandya to turn up and along with Rashid Khan and Shubman Gill, they had a core group to build the team around. At the mega-auction, they went big for proven performers like Lockie Ferguson, Rahul Tewatia and Mohammed Shami. While they had some good overseas options in the form of Ferguson, Matthew Wade, and Alzarri Joseph, their Indian contingent lacked quality.
“The plan honestly was just to put together a balanced team. We were lucky in the first three picks, it allowed us the opportunity to build the nucleus of the side. [Having] Hardik Pandya, Rashid Khan, and Shubman Gill was a good starting point for any team. That allowed us to then build on that. We were very happy when we walked away from the auction,” Solanki told Sportstar.
Jason Roy, who was purchased for ₹2 crores, pulled out of the IPL just before the start of the tournament, which further increased their batting troubles. They were heavily reliant on their retention picks to deliver for them.
Gujarat Titans had a perfect start to the season, winning their first three games to sit at the top of the table. It was a position they got accustomed to as the season went on, as the Titans won 8 out of their first 9 games. Their loss against the Sunrisers Hyderabad in their 4th game was the only blot in what was otherwise a near-perfect start to their season.
They endured a mini-drought after that, losing two on the bounce before winning two of the next three to finish at the top of the table with 20 points. They defeated the Rajasthan Royals twice in a week to lift their maiden IPL trophy. So, what has worked for them over the course of the season?
Gujarat Titans Bowling Unit
Their biggest strength this season has been their bowling core of Mohammed Shami, Lockie Ferguson, and Rashid Khan. Shami, being the premier Indian seamer in the side, bowled brilliantly with the new ball as well as in the slog overs. Shami has picked up 20 wickets, 11 of which have come in the powerplay and he has been conceding a respectable 9.55 runs per over at the death.
Rashid Khan has been a reliable performer for them throughout the season, picking 19 wickets at a staggering economy of 6.60. His exploits with the bat have stood out, particularly his 40(21) against the Chennai Super Kings when leading the side and the 31(11) against his former franchise.
Gujarat Titans Finishing Trio
The finishers, including David Miller, Rahul Tewatia, and Rashid Khan, have pulled off a couple of heists this season. The trio has combined to score 463 runs at a strike rate of 180 at the death this season, which has taken the Titans over the line in a couple of close encounters.
It has been a renaissance of sorts in the IPL for David Miller, who enjoyed his most successful season to date with 481 runs. His knocks against the Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals in Qualifier 1 will be fondly remembered by the Gujarat faithful.
What Didn't Work For Them
Well, not a lot, considering their record of 12 wins in 16 games. But as predicted before the start of the tournament, the top-order has struggled to get them off to good starts on a regular basis. Matthew Wade has been a huge disappointment, with the Australian wicketkeeper-batsman scoring just 157 runs in 10 games. The Australian was replaced by Wriddhiman Saha midway through the tournament before making a return once again in the playoffs. The withdrawal of Jason Roy before the tournament meant that they lacked firepower at the top, with Shubman Gill also a slow starter. They were bailed out on numerous occasions by the middle-order, which may not be the case every time. If the Titans sort their issues at the top, they have a great chance of retaining their crown next season.
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