Gujarat Lions’ joyride in the previous edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) proved that the Suresh Raina-led side does not need much to add to its firepower going into IPL 2017. Gujarat had a terrific run in the league round of IPL 2016, as they finished at the top spot in the points table. However, two consecutive defeats in the business end of the tournament ended their stay in IPL 9, something which they would like to improve in IPL 2017. Having retained most of their squad, Gujarat Lions will head into the IPL 2017 auction looking to bolster their firepower with the addition of a few more domestic and international stars.
Among all the eight franchises, it has to be Gujarat Lions who have not tinkered with their squad a great deal. The team, under the leadership of Raina, went close to having a shot at the IPL 2016 title, but Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) juggernaut last season was unstoppable. Nevertheless, Gujarat Lions will draw a lot of confidence from their performance in their debut season, wherein they won 9 out of 16 matches and fell short of the final. Ahead of the next year’s auction and the tournament, Gujarat Lions have released 8 players from their squad.
However, Dale Steyn has ruled himself out of the tournament, so that he can maintain his fitness for South Africa tour England in May 2017 and then Champions Trophy in June 2017. The speedster played mere one match out of 16 for them in the last edition. He has been on and off the field for majority of the last two years (considering that 2016 will end in a few days), and is perhaps seeing the beginning of the end. He suffered a shoulder injury during South Africa’s tour of Australia in November. After undergoing a surgery, he will need at least 6 months to get back to full fitness.
Among the other players who have been released by Gujarat Lions include Pravin Tambe. A match-winner for Rajasthan Royals, Tambe turned out in 7 matches and claimed 5 wickets, but did not produce the kind of impactful performances as he did in the previous few seasons.
Those who have also been released are Paras Dogra (no matches), Eklavya Dwivedi (24 runs in 4 matches), Sarbjeet Ladda (one match, no runs or a wicket), Amit Mishra (no matches), Umang Sharma (no matches) and Aksh Deep Nath (20 runs in 4 matches).
Looking at the eight players and their performances (if included in playing XI), it can be asserted that Gujarat Lions have not let go of any of their key players. Unless the BCCI or the IPL Governing Council change their minds and decide to go for a 10-team tournament with refurbished squads for IPL 2018, the upcoming season will be the last for Gujarat Lions. Hence, they will like to better their showings.
However, the exit of two bowlers in Steyn and Tambe should not impact Gujarat Lions since they have the likes of Dhawal Kulkarni (18 wickets in 14 matches), Bravo (17 wickets in 15 matches), Jadeja (8 wickets, 191 runs in 15 matches), Shivil Kaushik (7 wickets in 6 matches), Smith (8 scalps in 12 games) and Andrew Tye (no matches, but retained) in their ranks.
Gujarat Lions made an impressive start to the tournament last year. Despite losing their way in the middle stages, they rediscovered form to end on a high. For a team coming together and going a long distance in the first edition, it was a far better performance from Gujarat Lions when pitted against Dhoni’s Rising Pune Supergiants, who bowed out as the second-last team in the points table.
On the other hand, Gujarat Lions finished the group stages on the top, ending with 18 points in 14 matches (9 wins and 5 defeats). Gujarat Lions lost out on a berth in the final, losing their two matches in the business end of the tournament. As a result, it will not be surprising at all to see them improving on that front as well.
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