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Gujarat’s woebegone batting display just the tip of the iceberg

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Last updated on 27 Feb 2024 | 06:38 PM
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Gujarat’s woebegone batting display just the tip of the iceberg

RCB defeated Beth Mooney’s side by eight wickets with 45 balls remaining, and in the process, exposed a can of worms for the Giants

Gujarat Giants pressed the reset button hard before the auction

They left out eleven players from their first-season squad. They entered the auction with the biggest purse, and as a result, were able to splurge it on acquiring a top order batter in Phoebe Litchfield and an Indian fast bowling allrounder, Kashvee Gautam, who is one of the bright shining beacons of domestic cricket in India. 

Things were looking good on paper. They had the wooden spoon handed to them last season. They needed it to look good. 

However, that’s when the good times ended for the Gujarat Giants. 

Their most expensive pick in the auction, Kashvee Gautam, was injured and ruled out of the 2024 season. And when they took the field, everything from their team selection to batting order and their bowling either looked completely haywire or was already in a dismal state. 

In the first game of the season, they made a well-past-her-prime Veda Krishnamurthy open the batting against the seething pace of Shabnim Ismail. Only Ismail was smiling when they both clashed on the 22 yards. That allowed the veteran to get into her groove and carnage consumed Gujarat’s top order. 

After they were reduced to 37/3 in the sixth over, Gujarat could have promoted someone like Sneh Rana in the batting order. Her defensive technique is good enough to arrest a collapse and get the scoreboard going against the Mumbai spinners in the middle overs. Moreover, it wouldn't have mattered much if she had failed there, as the team wasn’t losing a key batter. 

But no. That’s not what they did. 

They sent Dayalan Hemalatha to do the consolidation job when, for a large part of her career, she has batted really well and has had high strike rates lower down the order. If not for a rescue act from the only associate player in the league, Kathryn Bryce, and left-arm spinner Tanuja Kanwer, the Giants would have found it hard to cross the 100-run mark. 

With the ball, Kanwer and Bryce performed well for the Giants as they picked up two and one wickets respctively. Today, against RCB at their home, even a performance of such kind from both these players wouldn’t have been enough. 

They learnt from their mistakes and didn’t open with Veda but rather sent out Harleen Deol to do the job, who has opened only four times in 41 innings in her T20 career and averages 11.25 there. Today (February 27), she scored double that average but took 31 balls to do that. Her poor strike rate negated the positive impact of her runs. 

It’s not that Gujarat doesn’t have a good batter to ace the opening slot. Phoebe Litchfield has batted one down and as an opener for 51 of her 84 T20 innings. She has done it for many teams. Moreover, she can negotiate the spinners by using her feet beautifully, like she recently showed in the T20I series against India. 

In fact, in T20Is since 2023, Litchfield has averaged 37.79 with a strike rate of 170.27. 

Today, she batted at three but was consumed by Renuka’s brilliance, who made a serious comeback this season with 2/14 in her four overs. She also cleaned up the Gujarat skipper Beth Mooney. 

Veda came two down today but looked as if she lacked lustre as she did in the opening fixture, reflecting her serious lack of form or rhythm. Sophie Molineux ended her 15-ball struggle, scoring only 9. Ashleigh Gardner still looked rusty and could score only 8 before she skied Georgia Wareham. Hemalatha was the only batter who came good today, with a solid 31 off 25. 

This paints a very miserable picture for Gujarat. But even more concerning, when they were down, none of their batters showed intent for a serious fight back. 

After Litchfield was dismissed at the 30-run mark in the seventh over, Veda and Harleen added only 15 runs in the next four overs. When Veda got out on the second ball of the 11th over, the score was just 3/45. Only a miracle could have taken them to a competitive score. It didn’t come. 

While bowling, Lea Tahuhu fed wide and short balls to Smriti Mandhana in the first over itself, and 13 runs came off it. The onslaught that began only ended when the target was breached in the 13th over itself.

After two games, the Gujarat Giants are properly in the mud. Their selection hasn't worked. Their batting hasn’t worked. The intent to win has ben missing, and overall, it seems like the wooden spoon is approaching fast towards them. Mithali Raj, Nooshin Al Khadeer and Michael Klinger have a serious task at their hand. 

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