The Gujarat Lions lost again. And rather infuriatingly for someone who needs to write about each of their matches, they have done it in exactly the same way that they lost during the other five defeats they have succumbed to so far this season. The bowlers conceded too many runs, the openers misfired and then the middle order crumbled. If they are going to lose almost every game they could at least have the basic decency to do so in new and interesting ways. Unfortunately for them and for those who are trying to write about them it was just more of the same.
There were changes galore for the Lions as they look for the best possible combination of players to finally hit on a lineup that will will allow them to start winning games. In Rajkot against Kings XI Punjab on Sunday afternoon four different players came into the team. Praveen Kumar and Dhawal Kulkarni sat out, Nathu Singh and Shubham Agarwal came in as the desperate search for bowlers that can keep them in a match continued. Ishan Kishan was sick so he was replaced by Akshdeep Nath.
Oh, and Andrew Tye came back into the team after being randomly dropped for James Faulkner in the last match only for Faulkner to suffer the same fate. A never ending carousel of players is not unusual in the IPL, but the Lions' changes have a whiff of desperation about them.
At the toss the Lions’ captain, Suresh Raina, intimated that Dwayne Bravo may miss the whole tournament, but the Gujarat team still picked another Dwayne - fellow West Indian Dwayne Smith. His inclusion is something of a mystery, especially as he is rarely being picked as an opener, a role in which he has had far more success. With the bat he is now averaging 15.66 in this tournament, the lowest by any Lions batsman. Smith has bowled eight overs in the tournament thus far and conceded 94 runs from them, claiming just two wickets. He has second worst economy rate of any player who has bowled for the Lions.
Smith’s inclusion in the side, batting out of position and rarely bowling, is now somewhat mystifying. Surely Faulkner would be a better bet as a finisher with the bat and with the ball. When the Lions dropped Andrew Tye in the last match to bring in Faulkner they did so for the wrong player.
The early wicket of Manan Vohra would have given the Lions some hope of keeping the Kings XI’s total under control, but big partnerships between Hashim Amla and Shaun Marsh, and then Amla and Glenn Maxwell, left Kings XI looking set for a total in excess of 200. As it was, they fell away a little bit at the death. They still managed to plunder 18 runs from Smith’s one over in the match.
Basil Thampi has impressed in this tournament so far, but he was expensive on Sunday, conceding 44 runs from his four overs. Short balls were pulled away, yorkers were missed by just enough for them to go the distance.
With 189 the target, a total that was about 15 runs over the par score on this pitch in recent years, the pressure was on the opening pair of Aaron Finch and Brendon McCullum to set a platform from which a big chase could be attempted. That didn’t happen as McCullum departed in the first over and Finch was gone inside the PowerPlay.
Suresh Raina made a match winning 84 against the Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday, and similar was needed from him against Kings XI. He started well before he was well caught on the boundary by Maxwell off Axar Patel for 32.
Dinesh Karthik made a decent 58 from 44 balls, but without any sort of sport the Lions innings fell apart. Ravi Jadeja and Smith both fell for single figure scores as they lost by 26 runs.
The IPL is a long tournament, and with seven matches still to play the Lions can still make a playoff spot if they win in lots and others lose a fair bit. Brad Hodge, their coach, admitted that this was a hard defeat to take, especially after doing so well in the match against KKR.
“This [loss] is a tough one because we are running out of time, and we are definitely playing catchup. But I do know if these guys do fire then we can certainly put it together like we did last year,” Hodge said.
He is right about the ability of the batting that is in his squad, and perhaps a little too generous to his bowlers, but the “if” in that sentence is about 50 feet tall and looming over this squad in a menacing fashion.
Every time this Lions team has been written about there have been comments about the potential for this team to go big. The problem is that there has been little sign of it actually happening
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Updated Date: Apr 24, 2017 09:57:23 IST