At the start of this year’s IPL, Gujarat Lions,led by the young and ambitious Suresh Raina, was one of the most promising teams on paper and due to this, a lot was expected of them and they almost delivered. But there was one thing they lacked and that was finishing. They faltered in games they could have won easily and that led to them getting eliminated in Qualifier 2.
Boasting of a T20 specialist Brad Hodge as coach and a batting lineup tailor-made for T20s and an enviable bowling attack, Gujarat started the tournament with 6 wins out of their first 7 matches. But, then everything just fell apart. What could have been an easy qualification for the playoffs went down to the wire. Even though, they finished on top of the points table but they lacked the quality and intent they showed in the beginning with just 3 wins of their remaining 7 matches.
New team, new venue to play. Learnt a lot from Hodgey, gave me a lot of freedom to execute as captain.” – Suresh Raina
One of the main reasons behind Gujarat’s inconsistency was sending Aaron Finch at No.5 which was simply wasting a batsman of his calibre. Finch started the IPL with a bang with three consecutive fifties while opening. But when he was pushed down the order, his form dropped. In addition to that, Baz’s mediocre and mellow form aggravated their problems.
Coming to the bowling department, Gujarat relied heavily on their new ball bowlers Dhawal Kulkarni and Praveen Kumar and they delivered the goods when required. Kulkarni’s spell of 4/14 in Qualifier 1 against RCB is rated as one of the best in this IPL. Dwayne Bravo was their go-to death bowler but he was not as consistent as he was with CSK in the previous seasons with just 17 wickets in 15 games at an economy rate of 8.82. Although, it was the poor form of Finisher Faulkner and ‘Sir’ Jadeja that hurt them the most. Spinners Shivil Kaushik and Shadab Jakati were impressive in patches.
As I mentioned before, demoting Finch to No.5 by Raina was a shocker, but this was not all. Leaving Dale Steyn on the bench for the entire season was another one. But, apart from these decisions, Raina’s captaincy was quite impressive although his form wasn’t. Raina was one of those captains who failed to lead their team from the front when it was needed the most. The most capped IPL player managed just 399 runs from 15 matches.
Their fielding was immaculate with Raina bagging the award for the best catch in this IPL, a one handed stunner at first slip off Smith to dismiss Suryakumar Yadav. Their side was filled to the brim with excellent fielders like Smith, Baz and Finch to name a few.
To sum up, Gujarat, in their debut season, performed very well, exceeding all expectations. They had a very well balanced team and they could do even better next season if their players contribute consistently. Although, they should try and include an international new ball bowler like Steyn into the XI to increase their penetrative abilities early into the innings.
As always, here is my pick of the best players in their respective departments:
Best Batsman – Dwayne Smith
Best Bowler – Dhawal Kulkarni
Best Fielder – Suresh Raina