Three successive wins in as many fixtures in their maiden campaign, it can be safely assumed that Gujarat Lions haven’t had the first-timers’ blues. With a team as balanced and resourceful as Suresh Raina is marshalling, you wouldn’t expect them to show any in the first place. Then, as Raina’s ex-skipper would readily admit, requisite ingredients don’t always guarantee instant results, especially in the shortest format. For Raina, though, everything has fallen into place as though by sheer default and apart from the opening fixture against Mumbai Indians, they were hardly even stretched.
They will be fairly confident to extend their winning streak to four games, with Sunrisers Hyderabad lined up next. The latter had reeled off to a familiarly uninspiring start, before skipper David Warner bludgeoned them to their first win of the season. Them throwing up a robust challenge to progress to the knockout will squarely depend on his contributions with the bat, and relievingly for them, he has been in fine touch-scoring with 171 runs in three matches.
If Warner has been in electrifying form, his compatriot Aaron Finch has been in even more devastating form, stamping his match-winning credentials in the all three matches with scores of 67*, 50 and 74. It was not just unbridled aggression; rather he has shown considerable maturity to anchor the chase. He has this tendency to accumulate dot balls, especially when the field spreads out, but he compensates it with boundaries. With Brendon McCullum, whose 31-ball 49 against Rising Pune Supergiants indicated he’s due for a whirlwind knock, they can become the most destructive opening pair in the league.
How Warner would wish to see his partner Shikhar Dhawan show such glimpses of form. The Indian opener has been enduring his most wretched patch of his career-16 runs in three outings–looking like a nervous wreck in all three matches. He, though, will be persisted with, in the hope that he would return to his wonted self to shore up a side that doesn’t possess much firepower down the order. It hasn’t been the happiest of times for England skipper Eoin Morgan either, but he would draw considerable belief from his 51 against Kolkata. Injuries to Kane Williamson and Yuvraj Singh have been a massive blow. Gujarat, conversely, have no such qualms as most of their batsmen have been looking in decent touch.
Ravindra Jadeja’s return would considerably prop up their bowling, which has at best looked functional, though they have in their mix bowlers of such versatile utility as Dwayne Bravo, James Faulkner, Pravin Tambe and Praveen Kumar. Significantly for them at least one bowler has stood up and made the difference in every match, though Raina would yearn for a more collective output from his pack. Warner’s bowlers made up for sloppy efforts, in the first two matches, with a disciplined effort against Mumbai Indians. Their pace bowling department is more or less settled, though they are missing a quality spinner. Leggie Karan Sharma leaked 10-plus an over in both outings. Replacing him with Bipul Sharma didn’t turn their fortunes around either. Worse still, they don’t have too many options on the bench either. This could be their undermining factor this term.
News from the bench
Ashish Nehra will miss this match as well, as he has yet to recover from the groin strain the sustained during the RCB match. So would Yuvraj and Williamson. They might be tempted to displace the under-firing Deepak Hooda with Ricky Bhui or find a slot for Trent Boult. Gujarat, meanwhile, will be bolstered by the return of Jadeja.