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Can Gujarat Titans cope without Mohammed Shami?

Last updated on 24 Mar 2024 | 01:30 PM
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Can Gujarat Titans cope without Mohammed Shami?

Gujarat might have moved on from Hardik Pandya, but Shami’s injury might be a bigger blow

Two IPLs, two finals. 

Life was great in the city of Gujarat. There’s none of the bitterness; there’s all harmony. But one deadline day trade move hampers it all. It takes away their skipper, Hardik Pandya, from them in a blink of an eye. 

While Gujarat seemingly always had the idea and an auction to plan to fill that void, Mohammed Shami’s injury came at the worst possible time. Gujarat might have signed Sandeep Warrier but he isn’t of the same calibre. 

Shami wasn’t a one-season wonder. He was a beating heart of the Gujarat Titans’ setup. A setup where he was blindly trusted, a setup where he stood as the leader of the bowling unit. In a city where his skills knew no bounds. 

So, all words kept aside, can Gujarat cope without Mohammed Shami? 

The simple answer is no. 

Last year, Shami was the tournament’s best bowler, with 28 wickets. When you filter down to the nuances, he had two four-wicket hauls. 

He was also the league’s best bowler in the powerplay, with 17 wickets. Seven wickets separated him and the second-best, Mohammed Siraj. If that wasn’t enough, he also bowled 152 dot balls in the first six overs, drawing a false shot of 35.9%. 

You get it. He was the best bowler and by a faaar margin. 

Gujarat will struggle without Shami, without a doubt. But they need to fill that gaping hole to save their season. A lot of that has to do with the surface at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. 

Over the last two IPL seasons, the pacers averaged 33.5 in Ahmedabad. When it comes to the home team, they average a stingy 23.8, with 17 wickets in the powerplay. That is one of the biggest reasons why Gujarat had a great deal of success at home. 

Only on two occasions did the Gujarat bowlers not strike in the powerplay, and one of them was in the final, proving why this first six-over phase is quite sacred for them. Finding a replacement is easy, but can they find a solution?

Gujarat’s options to cover up for an injured Shami

They have a few players at their disposal. One of them is the veteran, Umesh Yadav. But his form is of colossal worry, with the Vidarbha pacer only picking up one wicket last season, averaging 189 with the ball, and even that came in the middle overs. 

It isn’t just last year, in IPL since 2022, the 36-year-old averages 40.3 in the powerplay, with just eight wickets. So, in no way can he fill the shoes of Shami, who proved to be a top wicket-taker and still be one of Gujarat’s most economical bowlers. 

If Gujarat look beyond Umesh, there are some really exciting options at their disposal, one of the biggest being Kartik Tyagi. The excitement around the bowler has been beyond the roof, especially with his pace and wit being widely discussed. 

Even in that exciting department, there are issues: a) Tyagi has just played one extended season in the competition, b) he is injury-prone, and c) he’s rarely bowled in the powerplay. 

Tyagi has just bowled five powerplay overs in the last two years. Overall, the Uttar Pradesh pacer has only picked up five wickets, averaging 52.8 in that phase, so Gujarat might want to look into someone specialised at the job. 

Powerplay, a specialised job

Considering the Gujarat side's makeup, they can afford to play two overseas pacers, that’s why they didn’t hold back from splurging money for Spencer Johnson. The left-arm pacer has been one of the hottest names on the T20 block over the last year, with his exploits in the Big Bash League for the Brisbane Heat. 

While Johnson isn’t necessarily one of the best bowlers in the powerplay, his skills are more active in the middle and death overs, where he could prove to be a good fit alongside Mohit Sharma. Johnson averages 29.2 in the powerplay, but that comes down to 19.8 and 17 in the next two phases. 

If they need someone in the powerplay, that’s where someone like Joshua Little could come of prime importance. In the last two years, Little has picked up 42 wickets in the powerplay, the fifth-most wickets in that phase. 

Not only that, but he also has a knack for keeping the economy rate down, with 7.1 in the powerplay phase over the last two years. 52.5 % of his deliveries were dots, and with Little already being part of the setup for nearly two years, his role might be more pronounced this year. 

Another prime option for the franchise could be the Afghanistan all-rounder Azmatullah Omarzai. He’s quite a menace in the powerplay, with his ability to cut into and zip past the right-hander. There’s no uncertainty over Omarzai’s inclusion, considering his all-round skillset. 

But if Gujarat are to get the best out of him, then they should not hesitate to give the new ball to the 23-year-old. Australia danced to his tunes while the entire world was singing his praise. There’s a reason why Gujarat fans could continue singing, with the all-rounder averaging 19.1 with the new ball. 

While teams have used him at the death, it is particularly not his strongest suit, and given that Gujarat already have someone like Mohit and possibly Johnson, they could maximise the Afghan all-rounder’s powerplay prowess to effective use. 

Out-of-the-box option

Darshan Nalkande could be an outside option for the Titans. He has been in the setup for the last two years, and the Vidarbha-born cricketer has really impressed the management. 

That even led to him making his IPL debut against Chennai Super Kings, where he almost got Ruturaj Gaikwad, beating the right-hander for pace. Since 2022, Nalkande has picked up 22 wickets, averaging 28, but there’s a slight worry about his lines, considering he’s given away 22 extras. Even in that clash against CSK, his no-ball gave Gaikwad a reprieve. 

That’s where Jharkhand’s Sushant Mishra could emerge out of the blue. Another left-arm pacer in the Gujarat outfit, the 23-year-old can amp up the heat. He’s picked up 12 wickets in his last eight T20 appearances, averaging 21.4. Having previously worked closely with Dale Steyn too, the left-arm pacer could be a new bundle of energy for the Titans. 

An out-of-the-box option for the Titans is Sai Kishore. The left-arm spinner has spent much time on the bench, with his abilities not used at the IPL level much yet. That’s where the left-arm spinner could prove to be a handful, with an economy rate of 4.9 in the powerplay and ability to pick up crucial wickets, with 18 wickets in the last two TNPL seasons.

In the few occasions where he played, the Tamil Nadu left-arm spinner was extremely handy, bowling in tandem with Rashid Khan. While not just that, the Tamil Nadu man also provides an extremely useful batting option for the franchise, who could struggle for that in Pandya’s absence. 

While it might seem whacky, it is quite a useful tool to have for the Titans. Given that their best combination would be without Noor Ahmad, Kishore’s ability to take wickets (30 since 2022) and curtail runs (E.R 6.3) could be an ideal way out. 

Here’s how Gujarat can line up to fill the Shami void in the playing XI: 

In Shami’s absence, Gujarat have to be creative with their line-up, needing Azmatullah Omarzai and Joshua Little to handle much of the powerplay bowling, with one over from both Kartik Tyagi and Sai Kishore. Rashid Khan and Mohit Sharma will tackle much of the middle-overs and death-overs, with support from Vijay Shankar, Rahul Tewatia and Tyagi. 

Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha, B Sai Sudharsan (IP), Azmatullah Omarzai, Vijay Shankar, David Miller, Rashid Khan, Rahul Tewatia, Sai Kishore, Mohit Sharma, Joshua Little, Kartik Tyagi

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