The independent voice of cricket

Indian Premier League 2023

Go steady, then pounce – how Gujarat Titans are reaping the rewards for role-based selections

Sarah Waris by Sarah Waris
@swaris16 5 minute read

Gujarat Titans might not inspire on paper but they continue reaping the rewards for assembling a strong core, which has been assigned clear roles, writes Sarah Waris.

Ahead of the 2022 season of the IPL, Gujarat Titans, with new skipper Hardik Pandya, who was making a comeback from injury, were hardly given a chance to succeed in the competition. A glance through the squad and they did not stand out as likely title winners. Hardik was yet to prove his captaincy mettle and had willingly volunteered to move on from the successful Mumbai Indians in search of his own. Ahead of the auctions, they had also roped in Shubman Gill, a player whose T20 credentials were under the scanner, and Rashid Khan, who had been let go by Sunrisers Hyderabad for his failure to be a “wicket-taker”.

There were impressive names – Mohammed Shami, Lockie Ferguson and David Miller were also part of the squad – but the new team lacked star power through the group with the rest of the bench made up of either upcoming youngsters or discarded seniors. However, their surge through the competition was a prime example of the importance of teamwork combined with ambition and self-belief, aided by the shrewd tactics in place by the management group led by Ashish Nehra and Gary Kirsten.


Gujarat have won 14 games in their one-and-a-bit seasons of existence thus far, and a pattern is hard to escape. Ten of their victories have been while batting second, and they have failed to close a run chase just once. Gujarat have also chased down a target in the last over on eight occasions – it is a template that has worked wonderfully for them, as the squad grows in confidence with every game.

Last year, none of the Gujarat batters made the top-three run-scorers’ list. There were no bowlers from the franchise within the top-five wicket-taking charts either. Despite them not stealing the limelight, they carried on quietly with Pandya, Gill, Miller and Shami all producing their best-ever seasons. 37-year-old Wriddhiman Saha played handy cameos, producing a 300-run season for only the second time since 2014.

However, what remains interesting is that no batter from the top four has managed a strike rate over 140 for the franchise, with Gill being the only one to have a rate of over 130. The likes of Pandya, Saha, Sai Sudharsan and Vijay Shankar were expected to take the game deep, with Gujarat’s top-four strike rate of 127.17 being the third-worst among all teams. The top four also hit 45 sixes since the start of the last IPL – the worst among all teams.

The middle order, though, then takes over, with No.5-7 striking at 152.48, the second-best by all ten teams, hitting a total of 47 sixes. Overall, Gujarat have a death-over batting strike rate of 169.20, with their set of finishers, led by Miller and aided by Rashid, Tewatia and Abhinav Manohar ensuring the game is done and dusted more often than not after a solid platform has been provided by the batters above them.

The focus on raw pace, which explains the presence of Lockie Ferguson (last year), Alzarri Joseph, Shivman Mavi and Yash Dayal, besides Shami, also gives a hint at the modus operandi of the franchise. Having a good blend of experience and youth, they relied on Shami for important wickets upfront, with the senior India bowler grabbing 14 wickets in the powerplay since the start of the last IPL. 59 per cent of his deliveries are dots upfront, setting an ideal platform for Rashid in the middle overs.

The fact that a total of nine Gujarat players have won the Player of the Match in 14 wins since their IPL began last year, with none of their players getting the award more than twice, is a testimony to the rise of unheralded heroes, and the credit needs to go to skipper Pandya as well. Not only has the all-rounder connected with all his players, but his man-management skills have also given them a sense of freedom, which has been echoed by Rashid.

“To me, it is not important that you have all the best players in the eleven, that is something which is not important to have in your team. The kind of players you need to have, you need to give them certain roles in the team. If you have the best five-six players who bat at the top order and are not able to bat at number five or six, I don’t think you can manage that team well.”

By selecting the best candidates for said positions instead of choosing a power-packed team and then adjusting their roles as the game progresses, Gujarat have adopted a novel approach, which has paid off thus far. It is a process that might not work for teams that are over-reliant on big stars, but the Titans have shown it works for them, and they are best suited to stick to it.

Have Your Say

Become a Wisden member

  • Exclusive offers and competitions
  • Money-can’t-buy experiences
  • Join the Wisden community
  • Sign up for free
Latest magazine

Get the magazine

12 Issues for just £39.99