If Tewatia won’t, David Miller will. If Miller doesn’t, Rashid Khan will. If Rashid doesn’t do it, surely someone else will. “The way they hit gives me confidence that even our numbers 8, 9 and 10 can win us the game,” captain Hardik Pandya said after their latest heist against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
While these victories from behind speak volumes about the team’s self-confidence and never-saying attitude, they also whisper that all may not be rosy if games so often come down to the last innings. .
A look past the point chart tells us that Shubman Gill has only managed 80 points in the Titans’ last six games, at a strike rate of 98.76. That they have yet to determine who their best No. 3 hitter is. That with the uncertainty surrounding Pandya’s bowling fitness, they have been forced to play an extra bowler and compromise their batting.
The advantage of being at the top of the standings with eight wins in nine games is that they will have a foot in the playoffs if they pick up two more points. That they have enough games in hand to polish their XI. That the atmosphere in the camp is positive and that the players are all optimistic.
Kings, on the other hand, languish in seventh place in the points table. They could very well be eighth by the time they take to the pitch on Tuesday. With just four wins in nine games, their high-risk approach hasn’t brought them big rewards. Perhaps that’s why they seem to be moving towards a more balanced mode of operation.
But have they found their best XI? If so, is he strong enough to take them to the playoffs, which at the moment looks like a daunting task? Unlike the Titans, they don’t have much time left to find the answers.
In the news
After sustaining a hamstring injury against the Rajasthan Royals, Hardik Pandya did not bowl in the next three games. Asked the reason at a press conference, he gave a cryptic answer: “I haven’t bowled because I don’t have to. Whenever it comes, it comes.”
Yash Dayal missed the Titans’ last game with a concern. In his absence, Pradeep Sangwan, playing his first IPL match in four years, picked up 2 of 19, but if Dayal is fit, Sangwan may have to sit out again.
Gujarat Titans: 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 3 Sai Sudharsan, 4 Hardik Pandya (capt), 5 David Miller, 6 Rahul Tewatia, 7 Rashid Khan, 8 Alzarri Joseph, 9 Lockie Ferguson, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Yash Dayal /Pradeep Sangwan.
Kings of Punjab: 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Mayank Agarwal (capt), 3 Bhanuka Rajapaksa, 4 Jonny Bairstow, 5 Liam Livingstone, 6 Jitesh Sharma (wk), 7 Rishi Dhawan, 8 Kagiso Rabada, 9 Rahul Chahar, 10 Arshdeep Singh, 11 Sandeep Sharma .
- Rashid doesn’t usually play on the power play, but the Titans could use him against Shikhar Dhawan. Rashid dismissed the opener four times on 44 balls while conceding just 41 runs. Mayank Agarwal, the Kings’ other opener, scored just 23 carries on as many balls against Rashid with a dismissal.
- Miller was key for the Titans in the middle order, scoring 276 carries at an average of 69 and a strike rate of 150.81. But Kagiso Rabada can silence him. In 30 balls he threw at Miller, Rabada conceded just 32 runs while dismissing him once.
- A slightly left pick, but with Jonny Bairstow struggling – he’s only scored 79 runs on 70 walks over six innings – Kings could replace him with Odean Smith. Besides giving Agarwal an extra bowling option, Smith could play the role that Rashid does with the bat for the Titans.
Statistics that matter
- Rabada fired Gill twice on 32 balls while giving up just 20 points.
- Dhawan took on Mohammed Shami for 108 runs on 69 without going out.
- Liam Livingstone scored 86 on 52 balls against Rashid but was also out four times.
- Miller and Tewatia have added 236 runs in six innings this season with an average of 59 and a run rate of 10.48. Where both partners are not openers, their tally is second only to Suryakumar Yadav and Tilak Varma’s 276 in seven innings.
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo