IPL 2022: Titans can't afford to relax against Mumbai

Captain Hardik Pandya's primary task now will be to ensure his team regroups swiftly, writes Ayaz Memon

By Ayaz Memon

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Gujarat Titans captain Hardik Pandya during a net session. (Twitter)
Gujarat Titans captain Hardik Pandya during a net session. (Twitter)

Published: Fri 6 May 2022, 12:59 AM

The Gujarat Titans being beaten by Mumbai Indians came against the run of form in the tournament. Until this setback, the Titans were on a roll and looked the best of the 10 teams. Then, virtually a win away to confirm a place in the playoffs, they were upset by a struggling Punjab side.

It wasn’t just the defeat, rather the manner in which Titans lost that would have caused much consternation in their dug-out. Barring Mohammed Shami to some extent, neither the batting nor bowling clicked.

In fact, Punjab won with the kind of performance that had defined Gujarat’s performances this season.

Was this just an aberration? Or are the Titans running out of steam?

These are the two big questions on the eve of their match against Mumbai Indians.

As seen over the years, teams dominant in the first half struggle to sustain the tempo or form and some simply fade out. The Titans have to be wary of this syndrome. Also, for a team doing well in the league stage, it is doubly important to finish in the top two on points as this provides two opportunities to reach the final.

It would be presumptuous to believe that because of the defeat against Punjab the Titans have started going downhill. But they need to ensure that performance does not slacken because of casualness or trepidations. The T20 format is notoriously fickle and unforgiving.

With the Royal Challengers Bangalore on the upward move again, the race for places in the playoffs is bound to get even more intense. There is no scope for laxity.

Captain Hardik Pandya’s primary task now will be to ensure his team regroups swiftly.

Gujarat’s flop show against Punjab will give former champions Mumbai Indians a sliver of hope in tonight’s match. It’s been a disastrous campaign this season for the five-times winners, winning only one match from nine so far.

But Pandya, who was with MI for several seasons, would know that underestimating his former team would be folly.

The Rajasthan Royals, moving rapidly towards a place in the playoffs, realised this to their cost in the previous match, losing by a big margin.

Even in a barren season, with several of their star players failing to sparkle, MI have still thrown up some stellar performers. Among regulars, Suryakumar Yadav, consistently brilliant, has been among the best batsmen in the tournament. Jasprit Bumrah may not have as many wickets to show as usual, yet has put all batsmen to severe test nonetheless.

Even more exciting to watch have been young batters Dewald Brevis and Tilak Varma.

They have not been hassled by Mumbai’s crisis, exhibiting both dazzling strokes and mental toughness. Hrithik Shokeen, the 21-year-old off-spinner, is another to impress with his control and sound temperament.

Overseas recruits Tim David, Daniel Sams and Riley Meredith, chosen in the playing XI only intermittently, have also come into their own in the past few games.

This bunch of youngsters are developing rapidly, which is a good sign for future seasons.

For the present, with no chance of making the playoffs, MI, as mentioned previously in this space, are still well equipped to play spoilers and could end up messing up the aspirations of a few teams.

The Titans can’t afford to relax.

Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator

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