Gujarat Titans were crowned champions of IPL 2022 in their first season in the Indian Premier League. In the end, it didn’t come as a surprise. Rather it almost seemed inevitable considering how the league-stage and the knockout game had gone.
It seems fitting that GT’s title clash was against IPL’s first-ever finalists and title winners, Rajasthan Royals. RR were making their first IPL final appearance since lifting the trophy that year (2008).
Coming into the season, they acquired the services of Hardik Pandya, Rashid Khan and Shubman Gill. Three world class players and in them they had the core of the team sorted. Lockie Ferguson (₹10 crore), Rahul Tewatia (₹9 crore) and Mohammed Shami (₹6.25 crore) were the most expensive recruits in the auction.
On the whole, GT’s auction strategy raised eyebrows. It didn’t look like a unit that could be competitive over the course of two months. Pandya’s fitness and regular injury concerns made his appointment as captain worrisome.
Jason Roy pulled out of the IPL before the season began. Acquired for ₹2 crore, the England batter cited bubble fatigue and fact that it would have kept him away from family as the reasons for withdrawing. Afghanistan’s right-hander Rahmamullah Gurbaz came in as replacement.
GT endure blips without spiraling
Throughout the season, GT had a relatively straightforward run. Gujarat were the first to qualify for the knockouts – on the back of 10 wins and four defeats in the league stage. Finishing top of the pyramid earned them two shots at the final but they got the job done in the first – by beating Rajasthan Royals. And then once again topping them in the final.
In a tournament where it is easy to lose way after a defeat, especially for a new team, Gujarat never had this issue. They started with three wins, before losing to SRH, then again five wins, before consecutive defeats vs PBKS and MI, but booked their passage to the playoffs by beating fellow debutants Lucknow Super Giants by 62 runs. Eight wins out of nine to start the season made everyone sit up and notice.
With a top-two finish to play for, GT won one and lost the last league game. Unperturbed by this defeat, Gujarat won convincingly against Rajasthan in Qualifier 1 and the final.
Hardik Pandya comes of age
Hardik Pandya has suffered multiple issues through his young career. Controversies off the field, injuries, lack of form and then he wasn’t retained by Mumbai Indians for IPL 2022. One of the most flamboyant and erratic players in the Indian team setup, one needs to let Pandya be to go about his business.
With his matured captaincy, Hardik Pandya showed he’s come of age in Gujarat’s title. He never got rattled as captain even when the run of three wins was interrupted at the start of the season.
On an individual level, Pandya went about without being noticed. With the likes of David Miller, Wriddhiman Saha, Ferguson and Shami getting the limelight, Pandya’s performances were not being hailed. And yet he silently climbed the scoring charts to finish as the fourth highest-scorer, top for Gujarat, with 487 runs at an average of 44.27 and strike rate of 131.26.
On the bowling front, where he’s been criticised for India in the past, he picked eight wickets from 15 matches. Not the best returns but it must be highlighted he didn’t bowl on many instances (only in 10 matches), or not the full quota (average of 3.1 overs). However, he came good with 3/17 in the final to hurt Rajasthan’s chances and they could never recover from it.
Rashid with a bumper season
Rashid Khan has been hailed each year in the IPL for his bowling abilities. And that continued this time. His tally over the years has been 17 wickets (2017, 2019), 18 wickets (2021), 20 wickets (2020), 21 wickets (2018) and 19 wickets this time around. He picked his first four-wicket haul of his career. So he was mostly on par with his tremendous bowling effort and finished as second-highest wicket-taker for the Titans.
He made an impact with the bat too. He was needed to get Gujarat out of a logjam early into the season with GT 87/5 and needing 83 from 44 balls vs CSK. Rashid arrived and smacked 40 runs from 21 balls – including 25 runs off Chris Jordan – to steer GT to victory. To clarify it wasn’t a one-off, Rashid scored an unbeaten 31 runs from 11 balls against SRH in a similarly tight situation.
But the biggest contribution by Rashid came in the form of his death over bowling. In the last four overs, among the spinners only Yuzvendra Chahal and Wanindu Hasaranga bowled as many balls as Rashid. But the difference comes in the form of runs conceded. Where Chahal ended with economy rate of 9.46 and Hasaranga with 7.33, Rashid’s number reads 6.83 conceding just two fours and a six over the course of six overs.
“First couple of games we played, we won close games. This is a close game too. We could’ve lost four out of six, but instead have won five out of six,” Miller had said after their win over CSK.
Gujarat won nine of their 16 matches while chasing. Aside from their wins over CSK and SRH, GT beat LSG with 2 balls to spare; PBKS on the final delivery; RCB with 3 balls to go; CSK again with 5 balls left and RR with 3 balls to go in the Qualifier 1 with Miller smacking three consecutive sixes. The South African was one of the biggest positives of the season for the debutants as he delivered with consistency in high-pressure situations and not allowed pressure to creep up on Pandya in the middle-overs of the game. At the death, he was at his belligerent best and looked a different batter in GT colours.