After Gujarat Titans turned an equation of 48 from 18 balls – and a win likelihood of 4.20%, according to ESPNcricinfo’s Forecaster – into a three-wicket victory over Chennai Super Kings last week, David Miller, the Player of the Match for his unbeaten 94 off 51 balls, made a rare acknowledgment of the role of luck in T20 cricket.
“We could have probably lost four out of six [matches], and we’ve won five out of six,” Miller said at the post-match presentation. “The dice has definitely rolled onto our side.”
Titans sit atop the IPL 2022 table (before Friday’s match) because they are a team with multiple match-winners who have made important contributions at various points, but you can’t deny that luck has gone their way in almost every tense situation – here’s looking at you in particular, Odean Smith.
As the halfway point of the season nears, therefore, you might wonder how Titans will cope if their luck were to turn. It isn’t as if the deficiencies that were widely noted in their squad before the season have disappeared. For example, while their bowling is top-notch and their middle and lower order have considerably outperformed expectatations, their top order, Shubman Gill apart, has been a worry. Of all top threes in IPL 2022, Titans’ has the lowest collective average (19.11) and strike rate (119.86).
Their opponents on Saturday, Kolkata Knight Riders, will be desperate to end a run of three successive defeats and to find some sort of fix for a bowling attack that twice conceded 200-plus totals in those three games.
Umesh Yadav began the season as its best powerplay bowler, with six wickets and an economy rate of 5.18 in that phase in Knight Riders’ first four games. In their last three, however, he has gone wicketless in the powerplay and conceded 8.43 runs per over. Pat Cummins has leaked runs across phases – at 12.00, his economy rate is the worst of all bowlers to have delivered at least 10 overs this season. Varun Chakravarthy, meanwhile, has looked a shadow of his usual self, with an economy rate of 8.84 to follow two seasons in which he went at less than 7.
These are bowlers who lack neither skill nor experience. If Knight Riders can find a way to sort out their troubles, they have, in Titans’ top order, a clear weakness to target at the DY Patil Stadium on Saturday. The question, though, is: can they?
Groin stiffness forced Hardik Pandya to miss Titans’ last match, against Super Kings, but with Titans getting a five-day gap between that game and Saturday’s clash, their captain is likely to be back. It will be interesting, however, to note what kind of bowling workload he takes on.
Gujarat Titans: 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Matthew Wade (wk), 3 Vijay Shankar/Sai Sudharsan, 4 Hardik Pandya (capt), 5 David Miller, 6 Abhinav Manohar, 7 Rahul Tewatia, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Lockie Ferguson, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Yash Dayal
Since the start of the 2019 season, legspinners have dismissed Shreyas Iyer 14 times. Only Shikhar Dhawan has fallen to legspin as often. And while Dhawan has managed a strike rate of 138.93 against that style of bowling, the Iyer vs legspin contest has been rather more unequal: average of 17.35, strike rate of 109.45.
In the same period, Shreyas has been out twice to Rashid Khan in 55 balls, while only scoring 51 runs.
Since the start of the 2020 season, meanwhile, Rashid has only delivered seven overs inside the powerplay. There could be a case, then, for Shreyas to open the batting, and either stay away from a style of bowling that has troubled him of late or to force Rashid to bowl during a phase he isn’t all that comfortable in.
Former Knight Riders players (Kuldeep Yadav and Rahul Tripathi) have won the Player-of-the-Match award in two of the four matches that Knight Riders have lost this season. Titans have two ex-Knight Riders players in their ranks: Gill and Lockie Ferguson.
David Miller (99), Nitish Rana (98) and Shreyas Iyer (94) are all nearing the landmark of 100 sixes in the IPL.
Rashid Khan is one strike shy of becoming the 17th bowler to reach the 100-wicket mark in the IPL.