IPL 2017 May 13, 2017

Lions fall prey to their own strategies

A haphazard player acquisition strategy meant Gujarat Lions never had a realistic chance of stopping their slide when injuries began to deplete their squad

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Where they finished

Seventh, with four wins and ten losses

The good

Lions were among the best teams in the Powerplay this season. The explosive potential of players like Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Smith and Aaron Finch was utilised effectively, in rotation. They hit 28 sixes in the Powerplay, the most by any team, and scored 50-plus in 10 out of 14 Powerplays.

His team struggled for the majority of the campaign, but Raina was consistent. At the end of their final game, he was the third highest run-getter of the season, and finished with 442 runs in 14 innings. He had a strike rate of 143.77 and made seven 30-plus scores.

Australia fast bowler Andrew Tye failed to take a wicket in only two of the six games he played - the second time was because of a dislocated shoulder against Mumbai Indians. That injury ended his season, but not before he took 12 wickets at an economy of 6.71. His peak was in his first match, when he took a hat-trick and a five-wicket haul, besides unveiling the the powers of his knuckle ball.

The bad

Lions' impressive stats in the Powerplay came at the cost of imbalance in the middle order. They had five specialist openers in the squad, and all of them were given a chance at the top - they used five opening combinations this season. This meant at least three players were always out of their favoured position in the batting order: Aaron Finch and Dwayne Smith struggled, averaging less than 25 for the season.

Lions used 16 regular bowlers over the season, indicating that they never found their best combination. Four bowlers played only one match, three played only two, and one played three - they managed only three wickets in total.

© ESPNcricinfo Ltd

The ugly

With an unsettled middle order and James Faulkner's waning ability as a finisher, Lions desperately missed a specialist allrounder. They missed Dwayne Bravo, in particular, and the impact of his absence was exacerbated by a poor strategy at the player auction in February, and a poor replacement plan during the tournament.

Bravo's injury had looked serious the moment he picked it up at the end of December, a month and a half before the player auction. He joined the Lions squad, though, and the franchise clung on to the slim hope that he would regain match fitness before it was too late, while the other teams raced ahead in the league. In the end, Bravo pulled out of the season, and Lions roped in Irfan Pathan, who was unimpressive in the only game he played.

Lions' poor performance at the auction was further highlighted when their overseas players began to become unavailable because of injury or national duty. At one point they had only four overseas players available for selection, one of whom was UAE's Chirag Suri, whom they had bought despite him not having played a T20 game. They eventually played their last three games of the season with only three overseas players in the XI.

The missing ingredient

Lions' spinners were the worst in the league by a long way - they took nine wickets at an average of 90.55. Spinners for every other team apart from Delhi Daredevils took at least 25 wickets. Ravindra Jadeja had a poor tournament, taking only five wickets in 38 overs at an economy rate of 9.18.

Out of their control

Lions were hampered by injuries to key players. Bravo missed the entire season, Faulkner came in with an injury and was only available for eight games, and Ravindra Jadeja also became available for selection only after their first two games. They then lost Tye and McCullum to injuries in the second half of the season.

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • hycIass on May 16, 2017, 12:56 GMT

    Finch was the biggest disappointment, he is struggling to hold his Aussie spot and showed once again that he doesn't cut it when the pressure counts, an average of 24 doesn't cut it for me. Need to look at the imports list again. Spinners are by far the most effective bowlers in T20 cricket but Lions often don't play a specialist, instead stacking our side with pace. They should be playing at most two very fast bowlers, with the other seamers bowling canny cutters and slower balls. Tye is the standard for this kind of bowling at the moment.

  • true_point on May 16, 2017, 12:32 GMT

    This IPL has brought great success to less known Indian batsmen and fast and spin bowlers. But I did not understand the logic of Gujarat Lions persisting with opening with Ishant Kishen when they had a proven, devastating successful pairs of D. Smith and Brendon McCullum or D. Smith with Finch or McCullum with Finch. They had a very thin bowling talent. It did not help them that Dwayne Bravo was injured. If you look at the scores of DD batsmen like Pant and Iyer, their hitting has been against the hapless bowling of GL. So they need to have their top four batsmen to set the tone for either setting up totals or chasing totals. With Ishant consuming more balls to get settled, the momentum is lost. Strategically they have given the advantage to the bowling team when you start batting like a test match.

  • Lumboo on May 16, 2017, 12:24 GMT

    The absolutely nonsensical treatment of Jason Roy was another case in point. Ditching him to replace with over the hill players like Dwayne Smith, presumably so that Smith could provide an option to bowl a couple of seriously expensive overs? The whole set up is basically the opposite approach to Jarrod Kimber's excellent recent article about how to set up a T20 side.

  • ziaul8404 on May 16, 2017, 8:07 GMT

    Brandan Macullam, Finch all are old , they needed some young blood in overseas quota , Mahmudullah , a good spinning allrounder could have been a very good option for them. Hopefully they will correct in the next auction.

  • SamWintson92 on May 15, 2017, 15:48 GMT

    1. GL missed Dwayne Bravo. 2. Faulkner had a season to forget. If he doesn't do anything spectacular in BBL/PSL, it will be tough for him to get a bid next season. 3. GL should have played Roy often. They should have started with McCullum-Roy as openers. D Smith was inconsistent. McCullum-Finch should have been the next choice opening combo. Finch at the top is destructive. GL missed a trick here. I never preferred McCullum-Ishan combo or D Smith-Ishan combo when McCullum was ruled out. Finch should have been there. 4. Whoever has picked UAE's Chirag Suri as overseas player should be asked questions. I don't understand thinking what he picked him & didn't even play him at all. 5. GL shouldn't have released Tambe. They struggled with spinners. 6. D Kulkarni is an expensive bowlers. Their pace dept should have comprised Thampi, Nathu, Sangwan from the outset. 7. GL definitely underachieved.

  • CricketChat on May 15, 2017, 13:40 GMT

    Basically, GL was made up of the batting half of the last CSK team without their bowling half. A team consisting of McCullum, Smith, Finch and Raina should have no problem setting up a big total or chasing one if they were 'consistent'. They weren't to say the least and couldn't compensate for their lack of bowling fire power. Most disappoint was Jadeja, who employed the wrong strategy of using containing bowling line & length during the 'home' test season on 'helpful' pitches with great success in the IPL. I believe Lions and RPS teams will cease to exist, so it doesn't make much sense about analyzing their drawbacks. All the core players of these two teams will be reunited with their former teams, namely, Rajashtan Royals and Chennai Super Kings.

  • ALLROUNDCRICKET on May 14, 2017, 19:12 GMT

    Lions did not select the correct bowlers at the start. For eg Thampi, Nathu, Soni & Sangwan all of whom have been wicket taking bowlers were only used in the latter half when it was much too late.

  • BigINDFan on May 14, 2017, 17:40 GMT

    Lions is imbalanced coz they took most of CSK batsmen 2 all rounders with no middle order batsmen or bowlers. RPS lacks batsmen similar to RR. RPS got lucky Tripathi and Stokes had a great season.

  • sivarag on May 14, 2017, 14:49 GMT

    Well played lions every team dont have luck their side hopefully next year again back in form raina bro in csk

  • cricfan59765908 on May 14, 2017, 13:40 GMT

    Thank you lions for entertaining us in the past two years. Hope that you get come back soon. Would love to see an ipl with 10 teams or a 2 tier ipl with promotion and relegation.

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