Not many had rated or predicted Gujarat Titans to even reach for the playoffs – let alone emerge as a strong title contender – after their auction and with an inexperienced Hardik Pandya in the captaincy role along with Ashish Nehra as head coach.
The Titans shut down any and all criticism as the season progressed by keeping the top spot for most of the time. They had lost just 1 out of their first 9 matches and were on the verge of sealing a playoff berth. But then they lost two consecutive games – against Punjab Kings and Mumbai Indians – allowing their doubters to raise voices again.
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Now, Pandya’s side has become the first team in the IPL 2022 to qualify for the playoffs after their big 62-run win over the Lucknow Super Giants on Tuesday evening in Pune.
Speaking after the LSG win, Pandya asserted that the Titans didn’t put blame on any individual player in their two losses. They remained a strongly knit unit in the defeats and vowed to win and lose together.
Hardik Pandya gave a moving speech following their playoff qualification: “[The chat after two losses] I always feel when you lose a game like we did the last game, in a group what is important that you believe is we have won games as a team and we lose games as a team.
“We did not do what we were supposed to do and we know messed it up a little, but we will mess it up as a team. How we take credit like we say as a team, ‘We won,’ we’ll make sure that if we lose, we’ll say, ‘We lost,’ instead of saying, ‘This guy, that guy.’ That is Gujarat Titans. We kept our laughter too. It’s important to make sure the vibe is always there.”
Shubman Gill was GT’s starman with the bat, anchoring through the entire innings with his 63-run unbeaten knock from 49 balls which comprised 7 fours but no six. What may have seemed a slow knock at one point, proved to be crucial for the Titans as the opener held the innings together while others around him mostly struggled for timing and boundaries.
Gill’s innings helped GT post a par total of 144 which the bowlers came out all guns blazing to defend. LSG got off to a poor start losing their top two batters in the tournament, KL Rahul and Quinton de Kock, inside the powerplay.
Once the Gujarat bowlers got on top of the LSG batting order by knocking around their two openers, there was no relief from any end. They ran through the LSG line-up and bowled them out for 82.