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How unfancied Gujarat Titans have proven their doubters wrong

Having been widely derided for the squad they assembled at the auction, they now sit near the top of the IPL table

Hemant Brar
Hemant Brar
Hardik Pandya has impressed with his leadership and contributed handsomely with bat and ball  •  BCCI

Hardik Pandya has impressed with his leadership and contributed handsomely with bat and ball  •  BCCI

In February, all the talk about Gujarat Titans revolved around how they had messed up at the mega auction. Their batting looked thin, the overall balance awry, and some of the players they picked had underwhelming IPL records. On top of that, they had an inexperienced captain who was coming off an injury. But as we approach the halfway stage of the season, Titans are at the top of the table with five wins from six games. Here are some of the factors that have played a part in their success.
Strong bowling attack
Rashid Khan, Lockie Ferguson and Mohammed Shami make Titans' bowling unit one of the strongest in IPL 2022. With the new ball, Titans have been incisive as well as frugal. Their powerplay strike rate of 15.4 is the best in the tournament and translates to 2.33 wickets on average in the first six overs. Their economy rate in this phase is 7.33, the second-best among the ten teams.
Their seamers, especially Shami, have benefited from early-season grass on the pitches. "It's important to use the new ball well," he told Star Sports. "And when you have got multiple options for the back end, it becomes almost imperative to look for wickets up front."
Titans have dominated the back end too. In the death overs (17-20), they are by far the most economical side, conceding only 8.41 per over. To put that in context, Delhi Capitals, the second-best side on that table, have managed an economy rate of 10.15, while Mumbai Indians, currently the most expensive side in that phase, have conceded 13.05 runs an over. On average, Titans have conceded 18.56 runs fewer than Mumbai per game in just those last four overs.
Shubman Gill 2.0
In IPL 2021, Shubman Gill had a strike rate of 118.90. This despite Brendon McCullum, his coach at Kolkata Knight Riders, insisting on the need for aggression. This season, though, Gill seems has found that extra gear while still maintaining his silken touch. He has scored 200 runs in six innings at a strike rate of 151.51. Among openers with at least 100 runs this season, only Prithvi Shaw, Jos Buttler and David Warner have scored at a quicker rate.
Gill started the tournament with a duck but in his next match he posted his highest T20 score: 84 off 46 balls. He bettered it against Punjab Kings, scoring 96 off 59. Titans won both those games.
Multiple match-winners
Five different Titans players have won the Player-of-the-Match award in their five wins: Shami against Lucknow Super Giants, Ferguson against Capitals, Gill against Punjab Kings, Pandya against Rajasthan Royals, and David Miller against Chennai Super Kings.
With multiple players stepping up, Titans have been able to make up for the poor form of Matthew Wade and Vijay Shankar. Wade has managed only 68 runs in five innings at a strike rate of 107.93 and Vijay 19 in four innings at 54.28. Against Super Kings, they won even when Pandya was unavailable and Gill fell for a first-ball duck.
Finishing on the right side of close games
In T20, a single over can change the result of a game, and Titans have been on the right side of that equation on two occasions. In their game against Kings, Titans needed 13 from the last three balls. At that stage, ESPNcricinfo's Forecaster gave them a 6.85% chance of winning. A needless throw by Odean Smith made it 12 required from two balls, and Rahul Tewatia smashed back-to-back sixes to take Titans over the line.
Similarly, against Super Kings, Titans had only a 4.20% chance of winning at the end of the 17th over in the chase. Rashid then whipped Chris Jordan for three sixes and a four in a 25-run over to make Titans favourites, before Miller wrapped up the win off the penultimate ball of the match.
"We could have probably lost four out of six [matches], and we won five out of six," Miller said after the game. "The dice has definitely rolled onto our side."
Abhinav's contributions
Abhinav Manohar, who is playing his first IPL, might not have won games on his own, but he has played important cameos in almost every other match. Against Super Giants, when Titans needed 11 from the final over, he hit Avesh Khan for two fours off the first two balls to all but seal the game. Against Royals, he struck 43 off 28 balls, taking on Yuzvendra Chahal in the process and adding 86 for the fourth wicket with Pandya to set the platform for a big finish. In five innings so far, he has batted everywhere from No. 4 to No. 7, lending the team flexibility to adapt to various situations.

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo