IPL 2024: Gujarat Titans reset under Shubman Gill after Hardik Pandya's exit | Crickit
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IPL 2024: Gujarat Titans reset under Shubman Gill after Hardik Pandya's exit

By, Mumbai
Mar 20, 2024 10:31 PM IST

After two great initial seasons, IPL 2024 will be about how quickly their young captain and key batter settles down.

Champions in their debut season and runners-up the next year – the start of Gujarat Titans’ journey in the Indian Premier League has been better than any other team in the history of the T20 competition. Heading into IPL 2024, one would thus imagine they would again be among the favourites. However, the setbacks they’ve faced over the past few months seem to have left GT to start afresh.

IPL 2024 will be about how quickly GT's young captain Gill, and key batter settles down(BCCI)
IPL 2024 will be about how quickly GT's young captain Gill, and key batter settles down(BCCI)

When Titans claimed the IPL title inside the Narendra Modi Stadium back in 2022, it felt like the beginning of something special. By reaching the final last year, after topping the league stage again, they further established themselves as a dominant force in the tournament. And at the centre of it all was skipper Hardik Pandya – a premier fast bowling all-rounder at the peak of his powers.

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Pandya did well to gain the trust of his players, inspired them when the chips were down, and delivered with bat and ball consistently. Now, with his return to Mumbai Indians after a sensational turn of events, Titans have a huge gap to fill. By naming young Shubman Gill the new captain, they have aimed for a long-term solution. But finding a replacement, or two, for the roles Pandya played as a middle-order batter and frontline seamer could be the bigger challenge.

The other major issue for GT is Mohammed Shami being ruled out of the entire season. The 33-year-old was on an incredible high after finishing as the highest wicket-taker in the ODI World Cup last year, but he hasn’t played a competitive game since then due to an ankle injury that required surgery. He was the leading wicket-taker in IPL 2023, having led the chart for GT the year before. The current squad has pacers aplenty, but will any of them be able to have the impact and consistency that Shami did?

All eyes on Gill

In terms of captaincy, there will be a number of storylines to follow this season with Pandya, Rishabh Pant, Pat Cummins and Shreyas Iyer in the news. Gill too faces one of the stiffest tests he would face as he takes charge of a franchise with a strong reputation. At 24, the batter is younger than Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli were when they took over their respective IPL sides.

Although he was India vice-captain in their victorious U-19 World Cup campaign in 2018, he has limited leadership experience in domestic cricket. But every challenge brings with it an opportunity. Gill will have the confidence as an India regular and one of the most consistent batters in the game. It also helps that he produced fine performances in India’s recent Test series win against England. He has long been touted as the next big thing and if he manages to hand GT another strong season, it’ll go a long way in elevating his status in world cricket.

What’s imperative for GT, though, is that Gill continues to fire with the bat. The right-hander was phenomenal last season, scoring 890 runs at a strike-rate of 157.80. With the absence of Pandya and Shami, two of their biggest performers, Titans will need their star opener to shoulder even more responsibility.

“Not just me, the entire country is very excited to see how Gill operates," GT head coach Ashish Nehra said in a press conference. "He is that kind of a player. He is someone who is looking to play and do well in all three formats. So, we as a franchise, as support staff, are really excited to help him grow as a person more than as a captain. If he grows as a person, then he will definitely be a better captain going forward.

"And you know, Hardik also did not captain anywhere before he captained GT. Now there are 10 teams. This is not the first example. You will see more and more people, you know, somebody like Shreyas Iyer, even Nitish Rana did captaincy for KKR. So, this is a great experience for all these guys. Let's see who capitalises on that and moves ahead, again, first as a person then as a player.”

Selection conundrum

When it comes to the playing XI, figuring out the bowling department is likely to be trickier for the GT management. Afghanistan’s Azmatullah Omarzai is a promising fast bowling all-rounder, Australian pacer Spencer Johnson had an impressive Big Bash League season and was roped in for 10 crore, left-arm wrist spinner Noor Ahmad has the wicket-taking knack, and Rashid Khan remains the trump card.

A lot, however, will depend on the Indian bowlers in the squad. Mohit Sharma’s haul of 27 wickets was one of the highlights last season but the 35-year-old hasn’t played much competitive cricket since then. While Umesh Yadav and Jayant Yadav have experience, left-arm spinner Sai Kishore will be high on confidence after finishing as the highest wicket-taker in Ranji Trophy.

On the batting front, Sri Sudharsan, David Miller and Rahul Tewatia hold key positions. Wriddhiman Saha, who scored 300-plus runs for GT in the last two seasons, will probably continue as opener but Matthew Wade and Robin Minz are also there as options for the keeper-batter role. Kane Williamson is available and in form but the bowling combination could be a factor in determining his inclusion. Shahrukh Khan, acquired for 7.4 crore, Vijay Shankar and Abhinav Manohar are also likely to feature as the season progresses.

At the end of the day, though, it will come down to Gill at the top of the order. If he can continue to set the tone with the bat, a lot of the challenges faced by GT will take care of themselves. How he bonds with Nehra could be a key factor in all this.

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