Kolkata, May 23
Equipped with a lethal bowling attack and boasting a number of quality finishers, debutants Gujarat Titans will start as favourites against spin-heavy former champions Rajasthan Royals when the two teams meet in the first IPL Qualifier here tomorrow.
Captaining a team in the IPL for the first time, a fit-again Hardik Pandya has been a revelation as he led from the front, performing with both bat and ball to ensure Gujarat finished on top of the standings in the league stage.
Apart from firing at No. 4, Pandya has used his resources well -- be it the death bowling of the wily Rashid Khan or making his batting exploits count to go alongside the fiery duo of David Miller and Rahul Tewatia.
Their weak link was their top-order batting, with the highly-rated Shubman Gill failing to convert his starts, but the addition of veteran Wriddhiman Saha has done wonders for the team.
The ex-India wicketkeeper-batter is batting with new-found passion at the top and has scored three half-centuries in nine matches to make up for Gill's lacklustre run.
While Afghan leg-spinner Khan has been outstanding in the middle and death overs, India pacer Mohammed Shami has given the team perfect starts. He is the highest wicket-taker (11 wickets) in the Powerplay this season.
The fact that the playoffs will be played on fresh tracks would put the seamers in focus and Pandya may look to bring in Alzarri Joseph to go alongside Lockie Ferguson and Shami.
Gujarat had defeated the same opponents by 37 runs in the league stage. — PTI
Indian delight for pacer Arshdeep
Delighted at earning a maiden national call-up, left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh said bowling to the big-hitting Punjab Kings batters in the nets helped him perfect his yorkers. "I got to know just before the match, in the bus that I have got selected in the Indian team. Because the match was going on I didn't feel much," Singh said.
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