It’s been an eventful week in the IPL – as it always is – but while the mayhem has unfolded, Gujarat Titans have been sitting pretty, unaffected by it. They played their last game on April 17, but they’re still on top of the points table, and still looking like a side that can (and has) won games from anywhere.
The Titans began IPL 2022 with victories where the batting hinged on Shubman Gill. When Gill didn’t get a big score, Hardik Pandya brought forth a fine balance between builder and destroyer. When Hardik had to skip a game, up stepped David Miller in all his glory. In between, there has been a sprinkling of Rahul Tewatia miracles. And that’s just with the batting. The bowling is amongst the most well-rounded and threatening in the competition, with Mohammed Shami, Lockie Ferguson and Rashid Khan leading the charge in every game.
As well as the Titans are doing though, they’ll know that they need to be on top of their game against Kolkata Knight Riders. The Knight Riders have three wins and four defeats so far, but a positive net run-rate of 0.160 indicates that their wins have been big, the defeats have been close affairs. They have their own bowling arsenal to rival the Titans, while the batting runs deep and almost pulled off a chase of 218 against Rajasthan Royals, another quality bowling line-up.
In short, both teams have personnel sprinkled throughout their batting and bowling who can turn T20 games on their head. The Titans will not give up their top-of-table crown easily. The Knight Riders will be unstinting in their efforts to make them do just that.
What’s their form been?
The Titans have been spectacular. It is remarkable how they have found someone to stand up and win the game for them in almost every game. Even in their one loss, they made Sunrisers Hyderabad work hard to earn victory. Nothing exemplifies this better than the fact that in each of their five wins, a different player has been Man of the Match. They have managed to unlock the potential of Miller and Tewatia, they’ve ensured their superstar bowling trio’s form remains potent, their captain has been an all-star hero. It’s a heady combination and a happy dressing room.
The Knight Riders had begun IPL 2022 well, but despite playing some good cricket, they are coming into this game on the back of three successive losses. While that will naturally come with its share of problems, the losses haven’t been of the kind where the team was blown away, which will give them faith that a more complete performance is around the corner. Like the Titans, the Knight Riders have also had a collection of players doing well, rather than relying on just a few individual performances.
Titans Trump Card
Captain Hardik Pandya was omnipresent, and seemingly omnipotent too, in the last game he played, against Rajasthan Royals. He wasn’t part of the win against Chennai Super Kings, and the Titans showed their depth and resilience by pulling off victory even without their inspirational captain. But whenever Hardik is in the XI, he automatically brings a whole new dimension with him. His numbers against the Knight Riders bowlers are intimidating: he’s blasted 159 runs off just 88 balls against the combined forces of Andre Russell, Pat Cummins, Sunil Narine and Umesh Yadav. Of these four bowlers, only Russell has dismissed him, and that’s just once.
When bowling, the group of Aaron Finch, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Sam Billings, Nitish Rana and Shreyas Iyer have scored 82 runs off 66 balls faced, where Hardik has also taken five wickets.
Hardik has, therefore, had plenty of individual success against the combined KKR bowlers and batters, and with his ability to inspire those around him too, he looms as the Titans’ fulcrum, yet again.
All of those 99s could potentially turn into centuries with the first ball Miller faces, the first ball Rashid bowls, and the first ball Hardik fields.