Gujarat Titans suddenly seemed to have lost their winning touch in the Indian Premier League (PL) 2022. Two defeats in two, after winning eight in the previous nine matches, shouldn't bother Hardik Pandya & Co much. But further slip-ups will dent their confidence heading into the playoffs. Then there are other reasons to be worried about, too.
Most of their wins were thrillers. If we may use, lucky wins -- which could have gone either way -- just like their five-run defeat against Mumbai Indians on Friday. Winning is a habit, and so thus losing, especially if the players commit rookie mistakes as said by Hardik Pandya after the match.
In fact, Pandya had earlier said that "God is helping” them out after their win against Sunrisers Hyderabad, another last-ball thriller. The all-rounder however added a caveat, that Gujarat Titans "may run out of luck in the knockout games".
Yes, that's assuming they are in the IPL 2022 playoffs. But they are not quite there yet. Their first task is to secure a playoff berth.
All they need now is a win. With three matches remaining, Gujarat Titans should look to take the league stage honours. In fact, they can match the record for most points won in a season.
Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab had accumulated 22 points in 14 matches each in the 2008 and 2014 seasons, respectively. Delhi Capitals (2012), Chennai Super Kings (2013) and Mumbai Indians (2013) also accumulated 22 points each, but in 16 matches.
What if Gujarat Titans lose all three remaining matches?
For any team, 16 points should be enough to make the IPL 2022 playoffs. But nothing is certain. Theoretically, more than four teams can have at least 16 points. In that case, the net run rate will decide the top four.
And former England captain Kevin Pietersen has words of caution for Gujarat Titans.
"When you go and mess around with a game like the guys did at the DY Patil (vs Punjab Kings)... they chose to change things around because, hey let's change things around because we have enough points... well I can tell you something right now," Pietersen said after the Mumbai Indians game in Mumbai.
Chasing a target of 177 runs against the five-time champions at Brabourne Stadium, Gujarat Titans failed to score 20 runs in the last two overs. Daniel Sams conceded just three runs in the final over when the equation was nine off six. That's when Gujarat Titans' three match-winners, David Miller, Rahul Tewatia and Rashid Khan were in the middle at some point or other.
"You lose a nail-bitter like tonight, you lose a game because of a bit of a poor decision the other evening, what starts to happen in the dressing room? That negativity starts to seep in that room, because you just start thinking at the big periods in the game. Are we now getting it right, or are we getting it wrong? It's a marathon, not a sprint. You want to be playing your best cricket now and winning your games now," he told Star Sports.
Earlier, after the Punjab Kings match, former India opener Aakash Chopra pointed out Gujarat Titans' "obvious flaws".
"You know that their batting is a little light. You will get tested once in a while. More than once in a while it's getting tested now. It's just that they found new heroes, eight games and eight different 'man of the matches'.
"That's okay, but if you bat first and score only 140, you are not going to win a game. Nine times out of 10 you are not going to win a game. Once in a while, you will. But tonight was not that night. Gujarat Titans were due for a bad game. It came in this way," Chopra explained.
As things stand now, Lucknow Super Giants are second with 14 points with seven wins in ten matches. Rajasthan Royals third with 12 points (six wins in ten), followed by Royal Challengers Bangalore (12 points from 11 matches).
Delhi Capitals, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Punjab Kings have won five each from their respective 10 outings, while Kolkata Knight Riders are eighth with four wins from 10 matches.
Mumbai Indians are already out of the IPL 2022 playoff reckoning, and Chennai are also all but out.
For the record, in the 2012 and 2013 editions, when IPL was contested by nine teams (with 16 league matches each), 16 points were not enough to make the playoffs.
In 2012, Delhi Capitals clocked 22, followed by Kolkata Knight Riders (21), Mumbai Indians (20) and Chennai Super Kings (17).
In 2013, Chennai Super Kings won the league stage with 22 points, followed by Mumbai Indians (also 22), Rajasthan Royals (20) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (also 20). Royal Challengers Bangalore (18) and Kings XI Punjab (16) missed out despite reaching the 16-point mark.
Gujarat Titans' remaining matches
May 10 - vs Lucknow Super Giants: This clash of debutants is likely to decide the table-toppers;
May 15 - vs Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni & Co will not give an inch and the defending champions will surely go for revenge;
May 19 - vs Royal Challengers Bangalore: This is the final league match for both the sides, and will most likely be a knock-out clash for one of the teams.
It's only a debut season for the team, but many have already started talking about law of averages.