IPL 2017: Gujarat Lions need to rethink their team makeup to avoid further humilation

For the second match in succession the Gujarat Lions have been embarrassed. They have taken just one wicket across two matches and they have lost both games with a combined total of 58 balls to spare. That is two balls short of 10 overs that have been left unbowled by the Lions in just two games. The first match was a jarring result as they failed to defend 184 against the Kolkata Knight Riders. This game was less of a shock, but it was no less humiliating.

A nine-wicket loss to Sunrisers Hyderabad was a fair reflection of the performances of these two sides after the Lions top order failed to deliver. Last season the Lions’s success was built on consistent run getting from Suresh Raina, Aaron Finch and Brendon McCullum. In theory their top-order has been bolstered by the arrival of England’s Jason Roy. On Sunday afternoon of those four batsmen only Roy got into double figures, making 31 from 21 before he was caught on the pull off Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

File photo of the Gujarat Lions. Sportzpics

File photo of the Gujarat Lions. Sportzpics

From there it was all about the Afghan wunderkind - Rashid Khan. Still just 18-years-old, he looks and plays like a veteran spinner. He ripped through the Lions top order with amazing figures of 3-19 from his four overs. All of those dismissals came when the batsmen misread him. McCullum and Finch played the googly thinking it was a legspinner, Raina played the legspinner thinking it was a googly. These are three of the best T20 batsmen in the world and a teenager from a country that isn’t allowed to play cricket at the highest level made them look like mugs.

The real test for Rashid will come when teams have watched and re-watched the footage of him bowling in these first two matches and batsmen start to pick him, but that is of no comfort to the Lions who have been humbled by a kid from an Associate nation.

In the last game having Dwayne Smith batting at six was a waste. In this game it was a godsend as the Lions found themselves four wickets down in the ninth over with just 57 runs on the board. From there it was always about damage limitation and battling to get something that could be defended. Even then it was a stretch and they would need Smith to bat all 20 overs. Unfortunately for them Smith skied a catch to long off at the start of the death overs and once again the innings lost all impetus.

Dinesh Karthik scored at a strike rate of less than 100 on a pitch where David Warner scored at almost 170. There needs to be a caveat to the criticism of Karthik who came to the crease with his side in trouble and had to rebuild, but he too fell just at the point where acceleration was needed. 135 for seven was never enough runs, bearing in mind how bad the bowlers were in the first match, it was going to be a massacre.

The bowling lineup was different from the first game, with Tejas Baroka and Basil Thampi coming into the team, but neither man was going to cause the likes of David Warner and Moises Henriques any real problems. Sure enough both bowlers went at 10 an over as there was never any control exerted over the Sunrisers top order.

At least there was a wicket in this match, something that was missing completely from the Lions’s first match. This one came when Shikhar Dhawan looped a catch into the covers off a full toss from Praveen Kumar. There were no other chances created as the Australian pair of Warner and Henriques put on 108 runs for the second wicket.

The Lions’s most economical bowler was Shivil Kaushik who conceded just 29 runs from his four overs of left-arm wrist spin. In truth, he was fortunate not to go for more runs as he routinely dropped the ball far too short. The Sunrisers won with 27 balls to spare but they left runs out in the middle. If they had felt the need to really push on they could have reached the victory target with even more alacrity.

The Lions need to do something, and that should involve rethinking their team makeup. Not having Dwayne Bravo or Ravindra Jadeja available to them was always going to cause them issues, their bench strength was clearly a weakness before the tournament began. But having all of your overseas players as top order batsmen, with only Smith able to offer any sort of bowling, puts a lot of pressure on the local bowlers, none of whom have international pedigree. Leaving out one of Roy or Finch and bringing in James Faulkner fixes some of those problems. Not only can Faulkner offer some useful overs, he has a proven record of success batting in the closing overs in the innings.

It seems that Jadeja will be back for the next match, and that will be massive for this team with both the bat and the ball, but right now the problems look bigger than just the return of one, or even two, players.

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Updated Date: Apr 10, 2017 10:27:35 IST

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