It’s a good time to be the Gujarat Titans. The view from the top of the table is always comfortable. It’s even more so, if your captain turns in the kind of performance Hardik Pandya did in their victory against Rajasthan Royals.
The Titans’ next opponents are Chennai Super Kings. Defending champions, but at the other end of the points table right now. However, there is little doubt that the Super Kings remain a dangerous team, and their victory against Royal Challengers Bangalore in their last match showed that. The Super Kings’ strength is their depth in batting and their spin bowling, which makes for a neat match-up with the Titans’, who have got some extremely good spin-hitters in their batting, and have among the more potent bowling attacks in the competition.
Once again, how Shubman Gill goes will be a crucial hinge-point in this match. Gill has the tools to take on the likes of Moeen Ali, Ravindra Jadeja and Maheesh Theekshana. He’s also had two quiet games after starting IPL 2022 in imperious fashion, and will be looking to stamp his game on the contest soon. Gill has found a method where the boundaries come, but the dot balls have dwindled, which means the scoring rate remains high.
However, as crucial as Gill is, all eyes will be trained on Hardik. His batting reached a different level in the last game, his fielding was spectacular, and though cramps meant he didn’t take the new ball and didn’t bowl his full four overs, the bowling he did do was more than competent. When Hardik plays like this, he almost seems capable of single-handedly winning the game for his team.
What’s their form been?
The Titans have had only one stumble, against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Even that game was not without its benefits, because it gave Hardik time in the middle with the bat, and the chance to get his batting rhythm sorted. Other than that game, the Titans have found multiple heroes in every game. The bowling triumvirate of Lockie Ferguson, Rashid Khan and Mohammed Shami have taken turns to grab the spotlight, while all of Gill, David Miller and Rahul Tewatia are coming into this game on the back of confidence and runs.
The Super Kings have found an unexpected batting mainstay in Shivam Dube, who has come into his own after being promoted up the order. Their lower middle-order strength has not been tested yet, but it remains significant, with the likes of MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja.
Titans Trump Card
Dwayne Bravo. MS Dhoni. Ravindra Jadeja. Ambati Rayudu. That’s the list of batters in the Super Kings camp who’s scoring rates against Rashid Khan are either less than a run a ball, or just about over it. The thing about Rashid Khan is, he never actually has a “poor” game. Like ever. He may not grab a bunch of wickets every game, but the opposition will rarely get on top of him. He’s been a mite under the radar so far in this tournament – which is understandable when the likes of Hardik Pandya and Lockie Ferguson are doing their thing – but you feel like a game-breaking performance is around the corner. Why particularly against the Super Kings? Because if the bowlers can stifle them at the start, Rashid can take control of the middle overs. Since Rashid’s IPL debut in 2017, no one has taken more than his 70 wickets in overs 7 to 15. And among the top five wicket-takers in that phase, Rashid is the only one to go at less than six runs an over.