Gujarat Lions’ wretched campaign in IPL 2017 continued with yet another loss, this time at the hands of Royal Challengers Bangalore, another team struggling to rise from the bottom half of the table. While a newly formed Gujarat side competed well last season, they lacked ambition at the auctions this year and failed to bring in the right kind of players.
A flashback of the season thus far reveals that Gujarat have failed to utilise their overseas stalwarts to good effect while also struggling to fit in the right players in their comfortable positions.
There are a whole lot of issues with the Gujarat side now that it is tough to pinpoint a certain area alone as the sole cause of their uninspiring show thus far. That said, it is worthwhile to sit down and analyse where the Lions’ think-tank have lost it this time around.
Extra Cover: IPL 2017: Week 2 in review
Here is a comprehensive analysis on a few strategies that may need a rethink.
#5 Fitting in all the overseas openers
The first and foremost thing Gujarat need to address is their plethora of opening options. Jason Roy, Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch and Dwyane Smith have all been used in the opening role but only McCullum has looked good thus far.
Their strategy to persist with Finch at No. 4 is puzzling given the way the Australian has played at the top of the order for his country in the format. While the Smith-McCullum combination is one of the most successful opening pairs in the IPL, the West Indian's current form means that he shouldn't be in the 11.
They could move Finch or Roy to the top with McCullum and play Dinesh Karthik at No. 4. Smith can be dropped for Faulkner or Bravo (when he is available). Ishan Kishan is another feasible option in the top 4 if they are adamant on batting Karthik at 5.
Suresh Raina led with a lot of vigour and flair in the last season but seems to be running out of ideas this time around. He has struggled to lead a haphazard line-up and much of the chaos has stemmed from the side’s poor bowling.
The Lions took just one wicket in their opening two games and none of the bowlers save Andrew Tye performed consistently in the games that followed. Dhawal Kulkarni, a huge factor in their success last year, has lacked support from his skipper in terms of field placements. A slip was missing several times when Kulkarni was moving the ball away from the right-handers.
The spinners have been woeful with Jadeja failing to deliver tight overs. Raina has also erred by finishing off the overs of his strike bowlers before the closing stages which has meant Jadeja has been used at the death to damaging effect.
Tye and Basil Thampi look like effective options at the death. Faulkner is another option they could turn to.
#3 Role of Dinesh Karthik
Dinesh Karthik has been in such phenomenal touch in the domestic circuit that he is one stable option they have in the middle order. He has looked good in the few opportunities he has had at the crease early on. But the think-tank has preferred him at 5, a position too low for the wicket-keeper.
When a player is batting with the kind of form Karthik has shown, he should get more time at the crease to construct a sizeable innings. But Gujarat's strategy has been to bring in Roy or Finch at 4 with Karthik at 5, which has given the wicket-keeper-batsman little time to play his shots.
A batting re-arrangement is long overdue. Karthik could come in at 4 with Ishan Kishan, who impressed against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, coming in at 5. The World Cup-winning under-19 skipper has a calm head on his shoulders and looks like a match winner but has not been trusted with responsibility.
#2 Benching James Faulkner
James Faulkner was an effective bowler for the Rajasthan Royals for many seasons with his back-of-the-hand slower balls and lower order hitting. But surprisingly, he has been consistently benched by the Gujarat franchise.
Even though Roy and Smith consistently failed to live up to their reputation, Faulkner was omitted from the starting XI, a decision made more baffling by the fact that their bowlers have all been off the mark. The Australian could also provide a much-needed boost with the willow in the slog overs.
Dropping Smith and bringing in Faulkner at least until Bravo is available is a feasible move. Their death bowling could also be enhanced with Faulkner's inclusion.
#1 Managing their spinners and death bowlers
With Ravindra Jadeja being smashed for 57 in his four overs against RCB, Gujarat will know that they need to rethink their plan with the spinners. They should stop using Jadeja or Kaushik at the death and rely on Tye and Thampi, both of whom have impressed with their variations.
The Gujarat spinners have just one wicket amongst them in the matches thus far and this will pose a huge problem moving forward in the tournament. Shivil Kaushik has fallen short and the initial mystery surrounding him has vanished.
They could try Chattisgarh’s Shubham Agarwal, a leggie with a decent reputation in the domestic arena instead of Kaushik. Leg-spinners have had tremendous success in this season and a wild card move with Agarwal may just reap rewards. Agarwal also bats well making him a sound option in their line-up.