Gujarat Titans are bowling the opposition over | Crickit
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Gujarat Titans are bowling the opposition over

May 11, 2023 08:50 PM IST

Shami and Rashid spearhead an attack that has made the reigning champs very difficult to beat.

It’s been a run-fest like never before in Indian Premier League 2023. A 200-run total isn’t a landmark anymore, having been achieved in nearly every other game this season. The introduction of the Impact Player rule, short boundaries and batters being bolder than ever are some of the reasons why the boundary count has kept soaring.

Gujarat Titans' Rashid Khan, second left, celebrates with teammates after taking the catch to dismiss Lucknow Super Giants' Kyle Mayers during the Indian Premier League cricket match between Gujarat Titans and Lucknow Super Giants in Ahmedabad, India, Wednesday, May 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)(AP) PREMIUM
Gujarat Titans' Rashid Khan, second left, celebrates with teammates after taking the catch to dismiss Lucknow Super Giants' Kyle Mayers during the Indian Premier League cricket match between Gujarat Titans and Lucknow Super Giants in Ahmedabad, India, Wednesday, May 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)(AP)

In such a tournament, where conditions have been conducive for batters, an aggressive and well-rounded bowling attack can be a major asset. And that is precisely what reigning champions Gujarat Titans seem to have at their disposal.

Hardik Pandya and Co have always been a force with the bat. In fact, of their 20 wins since their IPL debut last year, 13 have come on the back of successful chases. However, as deep as their batting is, it’s their formidable bowling attack that’s giving them an edge over other teams this time as well.

If one looks at the numbers this season after 10 completed matches by each team, it’s amply clear that Gujarat’s bowling has been the most consistent. They’ve taken the most number of wickets, they are the only team to concede totals of 130 or less thrice, and their average total conceded (159.8) is also much lower than the rest. And yes, their average total conceded while bowling first is also the lowest.

There are several factors for Gujarat’s success with the ball, but at the top of that list is the brilliance of Mohammed Shami and Rashid Khan. After playing 11 games, they are the joint-highest wicket-takers in the tournament.

Shami on song, with his immaculate seam position, is a sight to behold, and he’s made the most of the assistance offered by the Ahmedabad pitch to the new ball. He’s looked fit, produced one fiery spell after another, and served a reminder of why he’s one of the finest Indian fast bowlers of this generation.

Rashid, meanwhile, hasn’t been at his economical best this season but that hasn’t stopped him from picking wickets with a familiar consistency. Regarded by many as the greatest spinner in T20 cricket, he’s once again been the go-to bowler for Pandya. He’s been a tad expensive at GT’s home venue but come the business end of the tournament, one can count the Afghan star to step up again.

While Khan’s presence remains a big advantage, Gujarat have also enjoyed the emergence of his compatriot Noor Ahmad. The left-arm wrist spinner has played just seven games so far but has an excellent economy-rate of 6.94. He, too, tends to hurry batters and by bowling in tandem with Rashid, he’s allowed GT to build great pressure in the middle overs.

“I saw a lot of him (Ahmad) when I was the junior national selector of India and we faced Afghanistan,” said Aashish Kapoor, assistant coach of the Titans.

“Actually, I gave his name to a lot of teams and asked them to pick him. He was just 17 at the time and I knew he was good. It didn’t work out with other teams but when I got a chance here at GT, I told (Ashish) Nehra just one thing at the auction: ‘You pick whoever you want but just let me pick one guy’. That was Noor. Because not many people knew about him and for me, he was a left-handed Rashid Khan. Both of them form a deadly combination. I kept pestering Nehra that we should play two spinners. Batters can’t pick one (Rashid), it’ll be difficult for them to pick both together.”

Pandya and Mohit Sharma have also performed well with the ball. While the skipper is back to full fitness and has bowled with pace, Sharma, who is competing in the IPL after four years, has picked 12 wickets in eight games with a top-class economy-rate of 6.96. The 34-year-old right-arm pacer’s 4/29 helped GT beat LSG in their last game and get to 16 points.

Gujarat seem certain to qualify for the playoffs again, with a top-two finish looking likely too. What’s most promising is that their bowling is only getting better. In their first five games, the average total they conceded was 175.8, while in the last six games it’s been 146.3.

Batters will probably continue to steal headlines in this remarkably entertaining season of the IPL. But, as GT have shown, bowlers can make just as big a difference. Pandya and Co have an ace up their sleeve, which makes them the favourites for the title again.

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