Gujarat Titans: Hardik Pandya's Defending Champions Enter IPL 2023 As Title Contenders
Gujarat Titans was the best team in IPL 2022 for not just lifting the trophy but for executing a perfectly-planned campaign among all competitors, winning 10 out of 14 league games
Having achieved the ultimate glory of winning the IPL title in their maiden appearance last year, Hardik Pandya's Gujarat Titans will aim to replicate all the right moves they made to lift the trophy with the competition expanded to 10 teams. Gujarat Titans was the best team in IPL 2022 for not just lifting the trophy but for executing a perfectly-planned campaign among all competitors, winning 10 out of 14 league games and finishing at the top of the points table with the best outcome (20 points).
Since last year, having led Gujarat Titans to the title win, Pandya's stature has grown with his ascendency to India's permanent captaincy job in T20Is and even a look-in in ODIs, while their young batter Shubman Gill has established himself as a natural pick at least in two of the three international formats.
Both Pandya and Gill led Gujarat Titans with the bat, finishing with 487 and 483 runs respectively to top the charts for their side while two of the best in business, Mohammad Shami (20 wickets) and Rashid Khan (19), were their primary attacking weapons with the ball.
Even though Gujarat Titans have let go of the express pacer Lockie Ferguson, his absence should not rock the ship which also consists of Ireland pacer Josh Little, West Indies' Alzarri Joseph, Shivam Mavi, Yash Dayal and a few more.
Strengths: Credit must be given to the coaching staff led by former India pacer Ashish Nehra for establishing camaraderie between the players and most importantly, clarity of their roles.
In the lead-up to IPL 2023, both non-regular members of Gujarat Titans, Mavi and R Sai Kishore, highlighted that knowing their roles and executing them was among the biggest reasons for GT's successful campaign last year.
With the firepower of Gill at the top, Gujarat have plenty of resolute batters in Pandya, B Sai Sudharshan, Matthew Wade, Wriddhiman Saha, David Miller and Rahul Tewatia who can all attack and also hold the fort.
The addition of Kane Williamson is a shot in the arm for GT, who also have roped in Ireland's T20 World Cup hat-trick bowler Josh Little and West Indies' Odean Smith. Williamson, who has over 2,100 runs in IPL and abundance of leadership experience, can play the role of No. 3 to perfection on tough wickets.
Known for his batting prowess, Tewatia showed his skills with the ball in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2022-23 with 14 wickets in eight matches.
Weaknesses: On paper, Gujarat Titans seem to have plugged in the holes they might have discovered last season. For a team whose bench strength did not inspire much confidence, Mavi has claimed that Gujarat Titans have addressed that issue.
For example, if Pandya was the man responsible for holding the innings together at No. 4, they now have another excellent option in Williamson to go with.
GT may lack an express pace bowler in Ferguson and his exploits in the death overs, but it should not be a massive concern since they have a lot of options to work with. Additionally, execution of plans will be key here.
Opportunities: Not many gave Gujarat Titans a chance when they arrived at the IPL stage last year. With an established name but very little leadership experience, Pandya did not attract a lot of attention and their capabilities were also in question when the tournament began.
But Gujarat Titans gradually emerged as the most organised, well-planned, determined and disciplined unit which was ready to do both: blow away opponents or grind it out for a win. If they adopt a similar approach this year, their opponents are likely to have a hard time getting the better of them.
Threats: If there is one batter who has shown incredible growth and development across formats, it has to be Gill. Now being perceived as a future leader of the Gujarat side, Gill has an ODI double hundred to show along with Test centuries. He is in prime form and could be the most dangerous batsman for Gujarat Titans.
Pandya's leadership is inspirational. He treats players equally, behaves like a friend and his approach is to bring the best out of them, which is also a lot similar to their head coach Nehra's.
Pandya's all-round abilities with the bat and the ball will be vital for Gujarat Titans once again.
David Miller will miss the first game of the season against Chennai Super Kings but is expected to be available for selection from the second match onwards. The venerable South African has been one of the best in the business when it comes to finishing matches in tense situations, and his presence in the GT middle-order makes it very dangerous.
Saha might face some competition from the young KS Bharat, who too has shown his aggressive side of the game in IPL for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Williamson can be the glue for GT in the middle-order while the likes of B Sai Sudharsan and Abhinav Manohar will be expected to build on their success in the last season.
Mavi says he has improved his batting a lot over the last year or so, but with the ball, the in-form Rashid, Shami, Joseph and the impressive Dayal will be considered as the primary attack weapons.
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