More than a few branded Gujarat Titans’ triumph in IPL 2022 a mere fluke, but the defending champions, this time around, look like they're out to prove a point. To show that 2022 was no fluke; to make it clear that they certainly are the real deal.
Their first encounter of the season against the Super Kings was seen as a ‘50/50 clash’ but the Titans registered a statement win, chasing down 182 without breaking a sweat. And in their second clash against Delhi, they truly flexed their muscles as after a fantastic bowling performance, they knocked off 163 with 11 balls to spare despite losing two key batters, Shubman Gill and Hardik Pandya, cheaply.
GT’s biggest strength has always been the fact that they do not rely on individuals, and the same was evident in the DC clash as Sai Sudharsan (62*) and impact substitute Vijay Shankar (27) shepherded the chase.
With a victory on Sunday, they will become the first team to register three wins in IPL 2022. They broke away from the rest of the pack in the group stages last year, and skipper Pandya would love for a repeat this time around. They’ll take a significant step in doing so by winning tomorrow.
GT are a well-settled side, but on Sunday, they’ll be facing a team that’s the polar opposite in Kolkata Knight Riders. KKR, in the absence of Shreyas Iyer, are most people’s wooden-spoon pick but against RCB, they showed why it’d be silly to write them off. They’ve already embraced the fact that they are the agents of chaos and this ‘nothing-to-lose’ attitude might just embolden them and propel them to do serious damage.
Last season, the Knight Riders nearly got the job done against the Titans. This time around they’ll be hoping that the chaos topples GT’s stability and that they get over the line.
Things to watch out for
Will GT’s quicks make life hell for the KKR batters again?
That KKR’s batters struggle against pace, especially if banged on a length, is no secret. In the solitary meeting between these two sides last year, the Knight Riders batters were humiliated by the Gujarat pacers, who kept bowling hard lengths relentlessly and reaped the rewards for the same.
An astonishing 8/10 KKR dismissals came on either length or back of a length against the pacers, and in the 52 balls that were bowled on a good length (6m to 8m), the KKR batters scored just 48 runs while losing six wickets. It was a demolition.
Make no mistake, GT will walk out with the same game plan on Sunday and it’ll be up to the KKR batters to find a solution. Minus the addition of Gurbaz, the KKR batting line-up is more or less the same so Nitish Rana’s side will have their work cut out.
Jason Roy or Liton Das in for KKR if either batter is available?
KKR’s batting looks fragile, and this is no exaggeration. They’ve slipped to 80/5 and 89/5 in their two encounters and it’s the lower-order that’s either shown fight or bailed the side out. The team could, therefore, do with a reinforcement or two up the order.
Given the struggles, one wonders if it’d make sense for the Knight Riders to drop Southee, play Vaibhav Arora and replace Mandeep Singh with either Liton Das or Jason Roy, depending on availability.
Southee brings class and experience with the ball, but considering there’s a like-for-like Indian replacement waiting in the sheds, KKR might just be better off using the fourth overseas slot on the batting front, where they’re thin.
> In T20s, Hardik Pandya has never been dismissed by Sunil Narine. He’s faced 37 balls and has scored 56 runs at a strike rate of 151.3, and has a very low dot percentage — 24.3%. Should KKR introduce Narine early as they did against RCB, GT could potentially look at sending Pandya in at No.3 to counter the spin choke.
> GT used Rashid Khan as a death bowler against DC, and there’s a good argument for them to do the same here. For Rashid possesses a great record against Russell, having dismissed the big man 4 times in 38 deliveries.
> Gujarat should also probably look to bowl Shami up-front and refrain from giving him overs at the death, for he has a hideous record against Russell. Shami has bowled 40 balls to Dre Russ in T20s — he’s conceded 96 runs while dismissing the big man just once.
The Narendra Modi Stadium has hosted four T20s since 2022 and the batters here have scored runs at an average of 25.3 and a scoring rate of 8.4, while a wicket has fallen every 18.1 deliveries. The seamers here have way better numbers than spinners.
The fast bowlers here have operated an average of 21.4 and a strike rate of 15.7, while the corresponding numbers for spinners are 38.3 and 27.8 respectively. The economy rate has been neck and neck - 8.3 for spinners versus 8.2 for pacers.
12 wickets fell in the season opener of IPL 2023 which was played at this same venue. Only three of these wickets went to spinners.
All things considered, expect a true, consistent wicket that’ll have decent assistance for seamers and not much for the spinners.
Expect GT to field an unchanged XI. KKR, meanwhile, might contemplate bringing in an extra foreign batter.
GT: Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Shubman Gill, Sai Sudharsan, Hardik Pandya (c), David Miller, Rahul Tewatia, Rashid Khan, Mohammed Shami, Joshua Little, Yash Dayal, Alzarri Joseph
KKR: Mandeep Singh / Jason Roy, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Venkatesh Iyer, Nitish Rana (c), Rinku Singh, Andre Russell, Shardul Thakur, Sunil Narine, Tim Southee / Vaibhav Arora, Umesh Yadav, Varun Chakaravarthy