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IPL 10 has always been the talk of the town due to the injuries that have led a lot of players being out of the tournament for first few weeks of the season or completely out for the season.
Lions will kickstart their season without Ravindra Jadeja, who has been in imperious form recently. Jadeja had an unflattering return of eight wickets from 40.1 overs in the IPL last year. But his form during India’s home season still makes him an integral member of the side. Jadeja bagged 71 wickets in 13 home Tests – the third-highest ever in a season – and scored 556 runs.
However, he will miss the first couple of weeks, having been advised a rest by the BCCI medical staff. Bravo’s hamstring injury, sustained in the BBL last year, will keep him out for the first few matches.
IPL’s first recruit from UAE, Chirag Suri, is likely to be available throughout, including Lions’ first two fixtures, against Kolkata Knight Riders. Dinesh Karthik, with a whooping season on his back, is someone to look forward to.
Lions let go of eight players, but the core group largely remained intact. Injured Dale Steyn was the only overseas talent they released.
Lions made concerted investments in experienced IPL campaigners like Munaf Patel and Manpreet Gony, apart from fresh recruits Nathu Singh and Basil Thampi – the Kerala quick who has a reputation of hitting 140 kph.
They also retained left-arm wristspinner Shivil Kaushik, who had a stint with Hull County Cricket Club in England following the IPL last year.
The last time these two teams met, both the matches were won by the lions, one a 5wicket victory and another a 6 wickets! In the first match, on 8th May at Eden Gardens, GL won it in the power plays instead of KKR’s Shakib-Al-Hassan and Pathan putting on a 100-run partnership glitzzy show. Kumar was splendid, taking two wickets and being the MOM. The second match on may 19th at Kanpur which was a low scoring game, 124 runs on board as Dwayne smith got 4 wickets and was the star of the match and Raina’s 50 runs, helped Lions to cahse the low score!
RECENT FROM THIS SEASON:
The new recruits from the auction and absence of star player Jadeja who is set to miss first few games will get eyes glued on to the TV sets for Thursday.
Dinesh Karthik got to be the ‘watch_out_for’ tag in Lion’s den as he notched up match-winning centuries in both finals (Vijay Hazare and Deodhar Trophy), in addition to four half-centuries in his last nine 50-over games.
With improved rhythm and added pace, Kulkarni took a Hat-trick for India B in the Deodhar Trophy opener against India A. Kulkarni has always been the man for the Lions. Aaron Finch, Lions’ second-highest run-scorer in their debut season, has been prolific both at the international and domestic levels. He was second on the batting charts in the latest Big Bash League, with 354 runs in eight games. He then churned out 108 runs in the three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka.
Their lower-middle order has underwhelmed. Dwayne Bravo and James Faulkner, who would be expected to finish innings off, have not been up to the mark over their last two seasons in the IPL. Bravo averaged 21 with a strike-rate of 125, and Faulkner’s corresponding figures were 14 and 120.
Lions also lack bench strength, which may hurt them upfront as Bravo is out injured early on and Jadeja will sit out of the first few games after a long Test season.
With a robust top order. Gujarat Lions were the only team last year to score 70 or more in the Powerplay – a feat they achieved four times. Five of their batsmen – Suresh Raina, Aaron Finch, Brendon McCullum, Dinesh Karthik and Dwayne Smith – aggregated more than 300 runs; no other team had more than three. Bowling department too looks promising with Kulkarni and Praveen Kumar on the list. Kulkarni’s 14 wickets in the powerplay were the most for any bowler in 2016!
Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith, Aaron Finch, Suresh Raina (capt), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Ishan Kishan, James Faulkner, Praveen Kumar, Shadab Jakati, Dhawal Kulkarni, Shivil Kaushik
Batsman– Jason Roy, Chirag Suri, Jaydev Shah, Pratham Singh
Bowlers – Andrew Tye, Manpreet Gony, Munaf Patel, Pradeep Sangwan, Nathu Singh, Basil Thampi, Shelley Shaurya, Tejas Baroka
Allrounders – Dwayne Bravo, Shubham Agarwal, Ravindra Jadeja, Akshdeep Nath
While they earned six wins from their first seven matches last year, their form took a hit with back-to-back losses in Rajkot – their original home – against Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Daredevils!
How would they start this season remains to be seen!