With their first losses in the Indian Premier League (IPL) out of the way, it has given Punjab Kings (PBKS) and Gujarat Titans (GT) an opportunity to iron out their flaws. Looking at their previous game, it’s quite simple: For Punjab, it’s just a case of someone other than Shikhar Dhawan chipping in with the bat, while for GT, it is do not concede five sixes in a row!
Despite their loss, GT still seem to be the team to beat this season, with all bases covered. The defending champions have the opportunity to bounce back quickly against a Punjab unit that have a few issues to address.
They could be bolstered with the return of key players like Kagiso Rabada and Liam Livingstone and could very well turn out to be the missing pieces of the puzzle. For GT, though, they will hope that Hardik Pandya returns to the XI for this game, after sitting out the KKR game due to illness.
Things to watch out for
Who other than Dhawan?
Dhawan has scored 44% of his team’s runs in IPL 2023 so far. Punjab’s top three have accounted for 70.5% of the runs. Over-reliance on a player or a couple of players is never a good thing and in the long run, it certainly comes back to haunt the team. They could very well do with the inclusion of Livingstone in the side. The England all-rounder has a strike-rate of 176 in the first 10 balls of the innings in IPL since 2022. In fact, his teammates Jitesh Sharma (168) and Bhanuka Rajapaksa (168) are the next two in this list, further showing that PBKS do not lack big hitters.
Livingstone is also deadly against pacers, having scored at a strike rate of 214 against them in the IPL since the start of last season and moreover, with the ball, he has shown consistent improvement. The fact that he can bowl both off-spin and leg-spin is an added advantage to the team.
While there have been glimpses from Prabhsimran Singh, Jitesh, and Rajapaksa, consistency has been lacking and Dhawan could certainly use some helping hand.
Titans’ Achilles heel
Gujarat came within touching distance of pulling off a win batting first in their previous game against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). They very well may have achieved it had Yash Dayal held his nerve. However, as things stand, they have won just four of their eight matches batting first, however, they are near-invincible while chasing, having lost just one out of their 11 games in the IPL.
In fact, they have lost three of their last five matches batting first, one of which was against PBKS. With the likes of David Miller, Hardik Pandya, Rahul Tewatia and more recently Vijay Shankar in the middle-order, their dominance in this facet of the game comes as a little surprise.
It could stem from the fact that they have been absolutely dominant at the death. Since IPL 2022, only Royal Challengers Bangalore (11.1) have a better run-rate than GT (10.9) at the death.
Sai Sudharsan, the glue holding GT together
Sai Sudharsan impressed in his limited chances for GT last season. However, he has taken his game to the next level in this edition. He has already doubled his tally of fifties from the previous season. He has not just scored runs but has also been involved in key partnerships.
Out of the five 50-plus stands for GT this season, Sai Sudharsan has been involved in four of them. His ability to take on pacers (SR 128) and spinners (SR 133) too bodes well for him and also his team.
Pitch and conditions
The fast bowlers have been dominant at the PCA, Mohali, picking up 69 out of the 108 wickets that have fallen here since IPL 2018. In T20s since 2022, the average first innings score at the venue has been 159, while the average score batting first is 181.
Also, the team batting first here in T20s since 2022 have won nine out of the 16 matches, meaning GT could have a slight edge if they found themselves chasing.
Can Dhawan counter the Rashid threat?
Rashid Khan is coming into this game fresh from a superb hat-trick against KKR. He could open the floodgates here if he comes up against Dhawan, who he has dismissed four times in IPL. In fact, the southpaw has been susceptible to leg spin of late as he has fallen to them 11 times since IPL 2020 but maintains a healthy strike-rate of 136.6 against them.
However, against Rashid, the strike-rate drops to under 95 and the PBKS skipper has managed to score just three boundaries from the 56 deliveries he has faced. Dhawan has scores of 21 (16), 14 (13) and 15 (12) in the powerplay this season so far. If Rashid, who usually comes on right after the first six overs, manages to get the better of Dhawan, Punjab could be in some trouble.
The good news for PBKS is that Livingstone is in Mohali and has trained with the team ahead of this clash. If fit, he will slot right into the team in place of Matthew Short. However, it will be interesting to see if Rabada too is brought into the team. But it would be unfair on someone like Nathan Ellis, (5 wickets at 17) who has fared quite well in the South African's absence.
PBKS probable XI: Shikhar Dhawan (c), Prabhsimran Singh, Matthew Short/Liam Livingstone, Jitesh Sharma (wk), Shahrukh Khan, Sam Curran, Nathan Ellis/Kagiso Rabada, Mohit Rathee, Harpreet Brar, Rahul Chahar, Arshdeep Singh
As far as GT are concerned, it will be interesting to see if they continue to persist with Yash Dayal after the pacer conceded five sixes in as many deliveries in the last over against KKR. If not, they have a like-for-like replacement in Pradeep Sangwan. Shivam Mavi, Mohit Sharma or even the spin option of R Sai Kishore could be given a look.
Skipper Pandya will walk into the team in place of Abhinav Manohar if he is fit.
GT probable XI: Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Shubman Gill, Sai Sudharsan, Vijay Shankar, David Miller, Rahul Tewatia, Hardik Pandya (c), Rashid Khan, Mohammed Shami, Alzarri Joseph, Yash Dayal/Pradeep Sangwan/R Sai Kishore