IPL: Gujarat Titans look up to Shubman Gill to deliver as top batter, leader

Loss of Pandya, Shami’s injury makes the job tougher to emulate last two seasons’ performance

Shubman Gill in his first practice session on Monday, 18 March. (photo: Gujarat Titans)
Shubman Gill in his first practice session on Monday, 18 March. (photo: Gujarat Titans)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Two finals in their first two seasons with one as winners – Gujarat Titans could not have asked for a better start to their IPL journey. A third one on the trot can, however, can be quite a challenge though after the blows the franchise has taken in the last five months.

An untried captain in Shubman Gill, the absence of Mohammed Shami – the highest wicket taker in 2023 due to injury – could turn out to be a double whammy for the side. The hope for Titans fans, however, lies in the fact that they had relied on team ethos more than any individual stars in the first two seasons and a repeat performance can once again surprise all.

There are no prizes for guessing that the pressure on Shubman to balance the twin roles of the key batter and leader will be enormous. Last year, he was simply unstoppable to end at a whopping aggregate of 890 runs from 17 matches and looks to have rediscovered his touch in the England Test series after a brief quiet period. The IPL ecosystem, however, can take a lot out of the captain and this is where he will need all the support of Kane Williamson, one of the shrewdest brains of the game.

After having his season scuttled with an injury last year, the New Zealand Test skipper is back in the fold and had been in fine nick. While Williamson’s strike rate has often come under the scanner in T20 format, his calming influence in such a long season will certainly come in handy. Talk of power hitters, the team management has spent heavily to acquire Tamil Nadu’s hard-hitter Shahrukh Khan, known for his explosive batting on the domestic circuit and can contribute greatly in the middle order.

The presence of ‘Killer Miller,’ alongwith leg spinning allrounder Rahul Tewatia, had stood the team in good stead during some improbable chases in the first season while it remains to be seen whether Azmatullah Omarzai – the Afghan allrounder – can provide some clues to emerge as a potential replacement for Pandya. Wriddhiman Saha, the veteran keeper-batter, has also punched above his weight as Shubman’s opening partner on a regular basis.

The bowling front, which had been their strength, suddenly looks depleted in the absence of Shami and Pandya. There will be no dearth of experience with new buy Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma while it will be interesting to see if overseas catch Spencer Johnson can bring in the X factor. The tall and strapping Aussie, the second-highest wicket taker in the tournament with 19 scalps in the last Big Bash League, can hit the deck hard and the Titans decision makers must have done their homework in spending Aus $ 1.78 million for him.

However, Rashid Khan will be once again the team’s go-to man for wickets, especially in the middle overs and the Afghan spinner can also chip in with some useful runs at a quick pace when needed. His compatriot Noor Ahmad, the chinaman bowler who impressed last season with 16 scalps, will provide adequate support to Rashid.

When Shubman was named the captain, a school of opinion felt that it could have been more pragmatic to have Williamson as the leader for a season with the Indian star as his deputy. However, the flipside is that the upcoming season can also be a great opportunity for Shubman to showcase his leadership qualities. If he can sustain this pressure well, he can quickly go on to stake a claim as a contender for India’s white-ball captaincy after Rohit Sharma.

Owners: CVC Capital Partners

Captain: Shubman Gill

Coach: Ashis Nehra

Best finish: Winners, 2022

Full squad

David Miller, Shubman Gill (c), Matthew Wade, Wriddhiman Saha, Kane Williamson, Abhinav Manohar, B. Sai Sudharsan, Darshan Nalkande, Vijay Shankar, Jayant Yadav, Rahul Tewatia, Noor Ahmad, Sai Kishore, Rashid Khan, Joshua Little, Mohit Sharma, Azmatullah Omarzai, Umesh Yadav, Shahrukh Khan, Sushant Mishra, Kartik Tyagi, Manav Suthar, Spencer Johnson, Robin Minz.

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