How tactical blunders cost Gujarat a place in the final

The Chennai Super Kings Convincingly beat the Gujarat Titans in the first Qualifier of the TATA IPL 2023 by 15 runs. Winning the toss, Hardik Pandya chose to bowl first at the Chepauk. Hardik Pandya made so many mistakes in the match tactically which made the difference eventually. The match was supposed to be a closely fought one but some tactical blunders from Pandya cost them the match.

Playing Nalkande directly in the Playoffs

Young Darshan Nalkande was directly called in to play the most crucial match of the tournament. He was also given the responsibility of taking the new ball. Prior to this game, the Maharashtra-born Vidarbha pacer had played just 2 games in his IPL career. This was the first game of this season and playing him directly in the playoffs was always a risky affair.

With Shivam Mavi, Alzarri Joseph, Joshua Little, and Yash Dayal in the squad, it made little sense to play Nalkande ahead of these four. Nalkande usually bowls in the middle overs, but with Hardik Pandya not able to bowl, he had to take the new ball. He was plundered for 44 runs in his 4 overs.

The search for the fourth pacer continues for the Titans as they have not found the team combination right despite topping the table.

Lack of Sixth Bowling Option

There is still a mystery about why Hardik Pandya is not bowling since the last 3-4 matches. Gujarat Titans needed their skipper to bowl especially in the powerplay without Little or Alzarri Joseph in the playing XI. Gujarat were found wanting with the lack of a sixth bowling option as CSK feasted on the weak link in Nalkande. It is almost a crime to play a T20 match with just 5 bowling options.

Pandya could have given an over or two to Dasun Shanaka on a pitch where the ball was stopping. His cutters and into the wicket deliveries could have been a handful.

Messing with the batting order

It is baffling to see the obsession of Hardik Pandya to bat in at number 3 despite so many options in the top 3. The Gujarat skipper walked in to bat ahead of Vijay Shankar in the Qualifier. Shankar was their designated number 3 and has played decently this season. The later Hardik Pandya comes into bat, the more threatening it is for the opposition.

To make it worse, even Dasun Shanaka and David Miller walked in ahead of the local Tamil Nadu batter. Shankar batted at 6 and was needed to don the finisher’s role which he is not often accustomed to. If Shankar was to bat lower down the order , playing Abhinav Manohar could have made more sense.

The Titans could even play someone like Odean Smith in place of Shanaka to give them firepower at the end. The role of Shanaka looks undefined and there is a lack of clarity over his batting position.

Gujarat have plenty to ponder ahead of the Qualifier 2. They are not a side that would panic after one loss. But they need to sort out the fourth fast bowling option and the batting order. While this is not a big threat for them going into the big match, they cannot afford to make any more tactical errors in the upcoming match.

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