Gujarat Lions might rethink their strategy of playing four overseas batsmen after a nine-wicket thrashing by Sunrisers Hyderabad condemned them to their second defeat in two matches. Coach Brad Hodge has hinted at a change in tactic, admitting that the team management had been tempted to beef up the bowling with either James Faulkner or Andrew Tye in place of one of the overseas batsmen ahead of the Sunrisers game.
In the absence of the injured Dwayne Bravo, Lions' overseas contingent has comprised Jason Roy, Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch and Dwayne Smith. While the batting unit clicked in the first game to post 183 against Kolkata Knight Riders, it came unstuck against Sunrisers' disciplined bowling and wilted to 135 for 7 in 20 overs. On both occasions, the team has been let down by the bowling department: Lions have taken only one wicket in two games.
"I think we need to analyse a few areas of our game," Hodge said after the match. "I think we need to improve and understand that, 'look your last year was a great season and it is going to take some hard work and effort to repeat that.'
"Yeah, we were tempted [to play either Faulkner or Tye], yes. I guess it is one of those 50-50 calls where either you can make that change, or back those guys again to be successful. Unfortunately it didn't work. And we'll look at that combination again. I guess the good thing is that we are still searching for answers and it is only early in the tournament. So it's good we really have the opportunity to knuckle down, have a look at the particular areas and I am sure that selection criteria [of picking an overseas bowler] will come into play."
It was legspinner Rashid Khan who set the Lions back irreversibly. He struck in his first over to trap McCullum in front, and went on to have Finch and Raina lbw as well in each of his next two overs. Hodge said Rashid was identified as a threat before the game, but that the Lions batsmen had actually read him well.
"We clearly didn't post a big enough total," he said. "We lost three quick wickets to Rashid. That pushed us on the back foot, and we were never going to be able to post a big enough total. I think they read him, they just said they didn't play him that well. He's a good bowler and we identified that before the game that he was going to be a threat. We just lost three consecutive wickets back to back and all pretty good players too.
"Whenever that happens in T20... I thought we did a pretty good job to post a total which might've been challenging. I thought Dwayne Smith played well at the end. Dinesh Karthik put on a good performance. Reality is, with that batting line-up, 130 is probably not good enough.
"In this tournament, we've plenty of time to regroup. You're going to lose matches - that's part of the IPL, that's part of any cricket theme…Yeah, but it will be nice for us to start getting some wins on the board."
Hodge also rued the absence of injured left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, who he reckoned was irreplaceable. Raina had earlier indicated that Jadeja was expected to return for Lions' next game against Rising Pune Supergiant on April 14.
"Without Jadeja, it's probably hurt us a little bit there. He's a player you can't actually replace," Hodge said. "He bats, bowls and fields and these guys are getting opportunity for that reason. Hopefully we get Jaddu back in, it might make a difference."
Lions had fielded two IPL debutants in legspinner Tejas Baroka and seamer Basil Thampi on Sunday. Hodge was particularly impressed with Baroka, 21, who played his first representative game. After being clubbed by David Warner for boundaries off his first two deliveries, Baroka came back well to finish his over with four consecutive dot balls. Hodge saw his bowling as a takeaway from the game.
"This is his first game. What we saw was some real courage, coming on in the fourth [fifth] over and bowling to David Warner in the Powerplay as a young legspinner was pretty challenging, I'd have thought," Hodge said. "I reckon he did a good job. There's a couple of things we picked up... I think he's got good skills, good control and I think when you see the game on the line, he'll be a real tough proposition for few teams. He's got a good wrong 'un. I don't think he really bowled a bad ball today. There's a good upside to him I think."