Best finish: Champion (2022)
Last season: 1
A new franchise. Multiple delays before the franchise was formally accepted into the IPL fold. A surprising support staff. Even more surprising auction strategy. The biggest surprise, however, came once IPL 2022 began. Against all odds, the Gujarat Titans believed in itself and stamped its authority by going all the way in its debut season. Cut to 2023, and the challenge is monumental. If the pressure of defending the title is not enough, adding to it playing in front of a home crowd into six digits just multiplies it to another level. And then, obviously, it will also have to deal with the second-season blues. Can Hardik Pandya and Co. cope with all these challenges? We will know towards the end of May.
Strengths: The core. If 2022 was all about finding a core for Titans, 2023 pre-season was to ensure it was retained. And Titans appears to have ticked the box, having hardly let go of any of its players that proved valuable to the team, Lockie Ferguson being an exception. As a result, the combination will be set even before the first match, with the management hoping it will continue from where it left in Mumbai last year.
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Weaknesses: A wobbly top-order and middle-over bowling could be areas to focus on for the star-studded coaching staff. Kane Williamson or Wriddhiman Saha is set to partner Shubman Gill at the top, but the sooner Titans find a settled opening pair, the better it will be for it. Similarly, to find a wicket-taker in the middle overs in the absence of Ferguson, who did that role to perfection last season, will be a big ask.
Hardik Pandya (captain): He was sensible with the ball, stunning with the willow and sensational as a leader. Hardik Pandya’s Hurricane season was one of the key reasons for Titans’ success in 2022. Having continued the impressive run in international limited overs’ arena, Hardik will be gunning to repeat his heroics in Aapdo Amdavad, barely a 100 km from his hometown Vadodara.
Best overseas player - Rashid Khan: He may have lost the habit of picking wickets in plenty in the IPL but the fact that seldom do oppositions dare to go after him makes Rashid Khan what he is! No doubt he will be as valuable as captain Hardik for the second year in a row for the team. This time around though, he will have to ensure the team doesn’t miss Ferguson much by picking wickets in the middle too!
Best Indian player - Shubman Gill: He is one of the most improved batter in men’s cricket in the last 12 months. Having established himself as India’s permanent opener across formats, Shubman Gill will be hoping to translate the form into the IPL. Despite having been largely consistent in the last couple of editions, Gill is yet to have a breakaway IPL season. Could this be the one he is looking for?
Best uncapped player - R. Sai Kishore: He may have got an opportunity only after the wickets slowed down towards the end of the league in 2022, but R. Sai Kishore — a lanky left-arm spinner and a handy bat down the order — could well prove to be vital in Titans’ scheme of things, especially in the home-and-away format. Having proven his credentials in the domestic season, Sai Kishore is desperate to show that he belongs to the big league.
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