Kolkata: There are no prizes for guessing that there will be a lot of curiosity value about the performance of the two new franchises in IPL 2022 - Gujarat Titans and Lucknow Supergiants. Vikram Solanki, Director of Cricket of the Titans, tried to diffuse the pressure by saying that their challenge is in ‘‘no way different’’ from the other teams in the fray.
The former England allrounder, who quit his role of a head coach of Surrey to take up the hot seat, wants his team to follow a simple recipe instead - that of playing good cricket and grow as a team with each game.
‘‘There is no question that the IPL is the toughest T20 league in the world. However, our challenge is no different from any other team competing this season. We have very much adopted the attitude that we expect ourselves to compete with every team regardless of whether they are a new team or a multi-championship winning team. Essentially, we expect to play good cricket and grow as a team with each game,’’ he said as his team’s preparations picked up pace after the quarantine period.
It was heartening to hear Hardik speak along the lines of his captaincy mantra being: ‘Success is theirs (teammates) and failure is mine.’ This gives you an idea of how he intends to lead the team
Even though Titans will be deprived of the opportunity to playing at their home, the cavernous Narendra Modi Stadium as Mumbai and Pune will be hosting all the league matches with a plan to cut down on air travel for the teams, the state of Gujarat had for long nursed the ambitions of having a team for their diaspora. Hardik Pandya, the enigmatic Indian allrounder who has been named their captain, hails from Gujarat and there will be a lot of synergy on that score as well.
Asked if the lingering question mark over his fitness to bowl the four overs still remains an issue (Pandya has only recently cleared a fitness test at the National Cricket Academy), Solanki told Gulf News during an exclusive chat: ‘‘Hardik has been working extremely hard on all aspects of his game, whether that be his rehabilitation, his batting, his bowling or for that matter his development as a captain. We are equally excited about the prospect of Hardik leading us. It was heartening to hear Hardik speak along the lines of his captaincy mantra being: ‘Success is theirs (teammates) and failure is mine.’ This gives you an idea of how he intends to lead the team.’’
The allrounder last featured for the national side at the T20 World Cup in late 2021 in the UAE before being dropped from the squad for the home series against New Zealand. He began his rehabilitation work in Mumbai before taking part in a fitness camp arranged by the BCCI at the NCA in Bengaluru.
The Titans had, along with Pandya, invested a fortune on Rashid Khan, the Afghan who had been arguably the most influential spinner in T20 cricket despite being only 23.
Replying to a question if he and Indian international Mohammed Shami will be the leaders of their spin and pace bowling packs, Solanki concurred: ‘‘There is no question that Rashid is one of the most exciting T20 cricketers in the world. I am sure he will play his part as far as leadership is concerned and we will ask the same of all experienced players within our squad including (Mohammed) Shami.’’
The squad received a jolt even before the start of the season with the pullout of England’s dashing opener Jason Roy earlier this month due to bubble fatigue. The Titans management hastily roped in Ramanullah Gurbaz, the hard hitting Afghan batsman, who went unsold as his replacement.
Their roster has a number of experienced campaigners in the team like Wriddhiman Saha, Matthew Wade and David Miller and Solanki feels the trio would give the squad a lot of flexibility in their batting order. ‘‘Wriddhiman, David and Matthew are all experienced campaigners and can fit into any role we feel necessary as batters. With Wriddhiman and Matthew, we also have two exceptional wicketkeepers in addition to Ramanullah (Gurbaz) within our squad,’’ he added.