IPL 2022: Finishers like Miller have made Titans an irresistible force

Punjab Kings face a big test against table-toppers Gujarat Titans, writes Ayaz Memon

David Miller of the Gujarat Titans. (BCCI)
David Miller of the Gujarat Titans. (BCCI)

By Ayaz Memon

Published: Mon 2 May 2022, 11:59 PM

It will take something special from Punjab Kings to stop the Gujarat Titans tonight. Currently perched on top of the points table, the new franchise have looked unstoppable, losing only one match from nine, each victory showcasing their all-round strength and strong ambition.

By contrast, Punjab have won only four from nine matches. More pertinently, they’ve lost three from the last five played which shows how rickety their progress has been. Another defeat could see their playoff hopes receding further.

Having started impressively, for some reason, Punjab seem to be running out of steam. And this looks more a mindset issue rather than talent. The previous match against the Lucknow Super Giants highlights this.

Having restricted LSG, consistently among the top four teams so far, to a modest 153, Punjab lost nerve and direction. From 88 for 3, the innings slumped to 133 for eight in a disappointing collapse, losing the game by 20 runs.

The excellent bowling effort by Kagiso Rabada, Arshdeep Singh and Rahul Chahar came to naught. This was a major setback considering the stiff battle for points and improving Net Run Rate.

Batting was Punjab’s strength given that they have Mayank Agarwal, Shikhar Dhawan, Jonny Bairstow, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Liam Livingstone, M Shahrukh Khan and Odean Smith. But things haven’t rolled out smoothly on this front barring a couple of matches.

The big problem has been Bairstow’s lukewarm form. At his best, he is a destructive batsman as he showed over several seasons for the Sunrisers Hyderabad,

But he hasn’t been able to live up to that promise for Punjab.

Livingstone (particularly) and Rajapaksa, who had been in glorious form in the first few weeks, worryingly also seem to be tapering off, which has put greater onus on Agarwal and Dhawan. Both have excellent records in the IPL and if Punjab have to rise from here, runs from these players is imperative.

Gujarat, on the other hand, have prospered not only because of a potent bowling attack (Mohammed Shami, Lockie Ferguson, Hardik Pandya, Rashid Khan, Alzarri Joseph), but a batting line up which has a never-say-die spirit, even when the odds are heavily stacked against it.

Shubman Gill has not quite lived up to expectations despite getting starts, but Wriddhiman Saha and skipper Pandya have been in superb touch.

Saha, who was picked up in the auction as understudy to Matthew Wade, has risen to become the first choice opener after the Aussie got injured and has provided runs consistently.

However Gujarat’s heft in batting – indeed, perhaps overall – comes from a line-up of fantastic finishers in their ranks. David Miller, Rahul Tewatia and Rashid Khan have pulled off victories from the jaws of defeats in exhilarating style, dashing the hopes of the opponents with devastating strokeplay.

To stop such a side will need nerves of steel and supreme self-belief from players who also have to perform to their potential. On all three counts, Punjab are lagging currently.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator

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