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

Varun Shetty
Varun Shetty

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.

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