Gujarat Lions – who debuted last year in the Indian Premier League along with Rising Pune Supergiants at the expense of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals – surprised everyone with their performances in their first ever season. The newly formed team finished top of the league table but faltered in the qualifiers.
This year, they will be looking to replicate their success and, if possible, take it further and make it to the final.
They have a host of power hitters in their ranks, especially at the top of the batting order like Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Jason Roy, Aaron Finch and Suresh Raina. In the middle order, they have an exciting prodigy, Ishan Kishan, who has impressed for Jharkhand in the domestic season.
Wicket-keeper batsman Dinesh Karthik, also, has been in top form in the domestic seasons, especially in the Vijaya Hazare Trophy and the Duleep Trophy.
Dwayne Bravo and Ravindra Jadeja will bring some much-needed firepower lower down the order as well as some stability with their cheeky death-over bowling and left-arm spin respectively. The pace bowling department will rely a lot on veteran Praveen Kumar and Dhawal Kulkarni. All in all, Gujarat Lions do have a pretty balanced squad but what about their support staff?
As much as the success of the side is attributed to the players on the pitch, the contribution of the backroom staff often goes unnoticed. Here we take an in-depth look at the support staff of the Gujarat Lions.
Unlike two-time champions Mumbai Indians, the Gujarat Lions do not have an extensive support staff. In fact, they have a very small close-knit group of professionals who work from behind the scenes to help the team achieve their goals.
The head coach, of course, is former Australian cricketer Brad Hodge. The decision to appoint him as a coach last year had taken everyone by surprise. After all, Hodge was still playing in the various T20 leagues around the world and had just endured a very successful campaign with KFC T20 Big Bash League side Adelaide Strikers where he was acting as the captain and the assistant coach.
However, he eased into the role last year and helped the Lions finish top of the league table. What makes him a good coach is that he never appears flustered and that his overall demeanour stands out. During his playing days, Hodge had to bear with the misfortune of having been born in the same generation as Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Michael Hussey and others.
Although he did have the talent he was never able to cement his place in the starting XI.
His international career never quite took flight but Hodge earned his reputation as a T20 batting legend. He played for a number of teams around the world and, at one time, he was the highest run-scorer in T20s. When he retired, only Chris Gayle was ahead of him in the all-time run-scorers list in T20 cricket.
In 232 matches, Hodge scored a total of 6343 runs including 42 half-centuries at an average of 36.87.
Former Indian cricketer Mohammed Kaif has been appointed as the assistant coach for the Lions this year alongside Sitanshu Kotak, who has been with the team since last year. Hailing from a cricket family, Kaif first shot into the limelight when he captained the India U-19 side to an unprecedented World Cup glory in 2000.
Soon, he would go on to make the national team debut in a Test match against South Africa.
For the national side, he played many memorable knocks, the most famous of them being the one against England at Lords in the final of the 2002 Natwest series. Known for his brilliant fielding skills throughout his career, Kaif was Rajasthan Royals’ costliest buy in the inaugural season of the IPL when he was bought for $650,000.
However, he flattered to deceive and was axed in 2009.
He would then go on to play for the Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bangalore in the subsequent seasons. On being appointed as the assistant coach of the Lions, Kaif mentioned that he was looking forward to this new stage of his career.
Heath Streak will be continuing in his role as the bowling coach for the Lions. The former Zimbabwean cricketer has done wonders in his coaching career so far, especially with the Bangladesh national side. It was in 2009 when he was appointed as the bowling coach of Zimbabwe, a role he would don until 2013.
For the next couple of years, he worked with the Bangladesh national side. During this period, a host of young, exciting fast bowlers emerged from the country. After his stint with Bangladesh, he was appointed as the head coach of Zimbabwe and has been tasked with ensuring his country’s qualification for the 2019 ICC World Cup.
Lakshmi Narayan, who was a part of the Chennai Super Kings side for eight seasons, took over the high-performance analyst for the Lions last season. For the outside world, the role of a high-performance analyst seems quite simple. However, in actuality, it involves a tremendous amount of backend work. Over the last decade, Narayan has worked with a number of cricket teams and gained valuable experience in the field.
Saif Hasan Naqvi is the physiotherapist of the Gujarat Lions team. He has worked in the field of sports for a long time and has worked with the Lions team last year as well.
Gujarat Lions’ Coaching Staff for 2017 IPL
Head coach: Brad Hodge
Assistant coach: Mohammed Kaif, Sitanshu Kotak
Bowling coach: Heath Streak
High-performance Analyst: Lakshmi Narayanan
Physiotherapist: Saif Hasan Naqvi