Barring losing the toss, everything went right for Gujarat Titans in their comfortable seven-wicket win over Chennai Super Kings at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday. Their bowlers kept Chennai batters in check, especially not conceding a boundary in the last five overs, to keep them to 133/5.
In reply, Wriddhiman Saha carried his bat throughout the innings for an unbeaten 67 to complete the chase with five balls to spare.
“I have been playing for so long. But this setup takes care of the group. I didn’t play the initial games but executed my plans when I got a chance. We were not chasing a big target. So I took my chances in the powerplay and then there was no need to take chances as the required rate was under six,” said Saha after the match.
In his innings laced with eight fours and a six, Saha gave Gujarat a flying start in power-play, something which he has been doing for the table-toppers now assured to play Qualifier 1. “We saw when we were bowling that the odd ball stopped. So I thought of taking my chances initially before taking it easy. My role in the team is to play my natural game in the first six overs. After that, my strengths are to be backed, be it playing the sweep or charging down,” stated the right-hander.
Shami, tasked with providing new ball bursts, again did the job when he found the outside edge of Devon Conway’s bat on a ball straightening after pitching and gave a straightforward catch to Saha. He then came back in the final over to take out MS Dhoni with a short ball pulled straight to mid-wicket.
“In the afternoon games, you need to be mindful about your lengths, we had to bowl in the right areas and we managed to do that well. The length balls were getting stuck in the wicket, so that was the time to not try anything unnecessary and let the game progress,” said Shami.
Shami was appreciative of the atmosphere in Gujarat, which has got the players to focus more on their game. “I’m happy that I’ve been performing well and hopefully the games in the future also turn out to be nice for us. In a new franchise, to create a new environment is very difficult but our support staff have made it look effortless.”
“We didn’t expect the team atmosphere to be so good, thankful to the staff for making our lives stress free and letting us enjoy our cricket. I hope the atmosphere remains the same even when we lose a few games, it hurts to lose games but it is an indication that we need to plan better.”
On his part, captain Hardik Pandya felt spending time with Mumbai Indians before being made the leader at Gujarat is helping him make better decisions as a leader. “I will say I pretty did alright because having played in the previous franchise where a lot of responsibility was given to the players. The kind of cricketer I am, I have enjoyed responsibility which gives me ownership of things I can control and it has helped me in deciding how the wicket will behave, which bowlers will do well here. Doing what I have done in the past has helped in my captaincy.”
With Gujarat having just one league match left, against Royal Challengers Bangalore, Pandya is in favour of keeping the core group intact till anyone asks for rest. “Ashu pa (Ashish Nehra) and me are very similar in terms of mindsets and game sense. Best thing is we connect without saying much. We’ll see if any player requires rest or feel like they need to take one game off to be fresh for playoffs, otherwise we need to keep the momentum. The core group needs to be intact and require the match practice needed. If fast bowlers need rest, we’ll rotate otherwise it’ll stay the same.”