When the Hardik Pandya-led Gujarat Titans began their journey in the 2022 Indian Premier League (IPL), one would have been forgiven for not considering them as serious title contenders. Because IPL hasn’t been kind to ‘new teams’ in the past. Be it Kochi Tuskers Kerala (2011), Sahara Pure Warriors (2011), Gujarat Lions (2016) or Rising Pune Supergiant (2016), none of the teams added to the cash rich were able to get title success. Pune came closest as they finished runners-up in the 2017 edition. So when GT and Lucknow Super Giants were introduced in 2022, one would not have considered that they would go all the way in the first season.
What happened, however, was the complete opposite. LSG and GT entered the playoffs while GT went the distance and won IPL 2022 by defeating Rajasthan Royals. This time too, both teams showed amazing consistency and finished in the top three in the league phase. The GT led by Hardik Pandya has played on a whole different level. They were the first team to enter the playoffs and finished the league stage as the No. 1 team.
It’s no mere fluke that GT has become a force to be reckoned with, challenging the might of older teams.
eye for talent
From the beginning, the mix of GT players has been incredible. Ahead of the IPL 2022 mega auction, GT bid on three stars. They chose Hardik Pandya, Rashid Khan and Shubman Gill. At the time, Pandya was recovering from injury and his place in the Indian squad was uncertain, while Gill had yet to establish himself as a T20 star. However, GT management believed in their talent and gave them a chance. In Rashid Khan, they had one of the most impactful bowlers in the history of the tournament.
His other player recruits also had a touch of brilliance. Whether it was Mohammed Shami for the brilliance of his new ball or David Miller and Rahul Tewatia, in the role of finisher, everyone clicked. Even the likes of Vijay Shankar and Wriddhiman Saha, thought by many to be past their prime, have been among its stars.
If it is not broke, do not fix it.
GT was so confident in the strength of their squad that they hardly recruited anyone from the IPL 2023 auction. They picked just seven players. Goalkeeper KS Bharat and New Zealand captain Kane Williamson were the only two high-profile signings between them. They also recruited veteran Mohit Sharma. In fact, Mohit’s was one of the better comeback stories. The mid-pace last played an IPL match in 2020, but this season he has taken 17 wickets in 11 matches so far.
In cricket, you rarely see a manager behaving like a football manager. The benches are mainly places of serious discussion. But in GT, things are a bit different. GT head coach Nehra can often be seen instructing his players from the bench. By contrast, Pandya has a much calmer personality on the pitch. Together, they are a force.
“One person who has been crucial in my growth is Ashu bhai (Ashish Nehra – GT coach). We are crazy people. We are slightly different type of people, but our sense of the game is the same. He has guided me well,” he said Pandya. in an interaction with Robin Uthappa at Jio Cinema.
While GT’s Shubman Gill, currently second on the list of top running backs with a total of 680, may end up as the top scorer if he keeps up his form, what has marked GT’s success is its pitchers. Three of the top nine wicket takers in this IPL are from GT: Mohammed Shami (23 wickets), Rashid Khan (23 wickets) and Mohit Sharma (17 wickets). Even the youngster Noor Ahmad, who impressed with 13 wickets, is also from GT and sits 17th on the list of top wicket takers. Compared to that, barring Gill, no other GT batsman is in the top 20 back in IPL 2023.
GT’s thought process is very clear in this statement from Pandya. “Bowlers are very close to my heart. Sometimes the batsmen get a lot of credit, for me I will always be a bowler’s captain and make sure they get the credit they deserve,” he said after one match. .
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