IPL 2023 | Lucknow Super Giants – Reinforcements turn formidable side into potential beasts

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Lucknow’s hunger for success won’t be satisfied with a title-less first season, despite a strong run till the playoffs. The Super Giants have made excellent buys at the auction and have strengthened their team to the utmost, ensuring them to be the side to watch out for come the start of IPL 2023.

The heart of the country and home to the most people in India, Uttar Pradesh finally got its desire fulfilled when the capital city Lucknow acquired a new franchise for IPL 2022. KL Rahul instantly became the Chowk’s new heartthrob as posters of the powder blue jerseys hung large across the Shaheed Path. Despite having to settle for games being held away in faraway Mumbai, the entire city held its breath with every ball, accepting the likes of Quinton de Kock and Marcus Stoinis as their very own. 

The players did not disappoint either, putting together an impressive, swashbuckling run to the knockout stage. Not at once in the league stage was their potential questioned, and therefore the fourth-placed finish could be labelled as nothing else than disappointing. Nevertheless, the franchise set a solid foundation for what they hope to be a long and successful stay in the league, wary of the numerous teams that have risen and fallen over the IPL’s 15-year history.

Powered by a fearsome top three of skipper KL Rahul, Proteas Quinton de Kock and emerging national star Deepak Hooda, Lucknow Super Giants recorded the highest average first innings total across the IPL. The former two scored runs at will, steering the team to the highest average opening stand as well. In fact, LSG were the only team alongside Gujarat Titans to have three batsmen with 450-plus runs in the tournament. The outfit was keen on capitalizing on the opportunities that a solid base brought along as well, as they went on to score the second most runs in the middle overs on average while losing the third least wickets between overs 7 and 15. 

Lucknow made it a point to stack their squad with power-hitting all-rounders, spearheaded by Australian Marcus Stoinis. The muscleman’s strike rate of nearly 150 ensured LSG scored the most runs in the death, beating out Rajasthan Royals, with the two franchises the only sides to score over 50 in the last five overs.

The RPG Goenka’s auction strategy further reaped rewards when uncapped domestic sensation Mohsin Khan tore through the ranks in a record-breaking season. The pacer’s economy rate of 5.96 ranked as the fourth best in IPL history amongst speedsters with at least 150 balls in a season. He was well-aided by former Mumbai superstar Krunal Pandya, who conceded runs at under seven an over while dismissing 10 batsmen. Khan and Pandya together secured the team an immaculate record in the middle overs, registering the second-most wickets in the nine-over timeframe while also conceding the third least runs.

However, T20 is a game of fine balance, and superiority in one domain of the game can often come at the cost of severe shortage in the other. Lucknow conceded the most runs in the first innings on average, largely due to their inability to cap off the innings on either end. The all-rounders Marcus Stoinis, Deepak Hooda, Andrew Tye and Jason Holder failed to restrict the opposition’s runflow, despite scalping the odd wicket. As a result, the side conceded the most runs in the final five overs of the game, with the second-worst franchise Delhi Capitals a distant four runs behind them.

The effort up front was not impressive either, despite Avesh Khan building upon his repute with another impressive campaign, ending as the team’s highest wicket-taker with 18. While he had a brilliant sub-eight economy in the first six overs, fellow new-ball bearers Dushmanth Chameera and Jason Holder leaked runs at over eight and nine an over respectively. The team ended up conceding the second-most runs in the powerplay at the end of the tournament, only saved the blushes by Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Thus, with only a few areas to make improvements in, Lucknow further reinforced their all-rounder-favoured policy by stacking the team with more two-skilled campaigners. Jason Holder was let go after failing to meet expectations but in came Naveen-ul-Haq, Romario Shepherd and Daniel Sams as potential replacements – not to forget Kyle Mayers also awaits in the ranks. To provide further support to the high-flying top-three, the team spent a mind-wobbling INR 16 crore to secure the services of Nicholas Pooran in the middle order. The Caribbean swashbuckler has a global repute for his destructive brand of batting and ability to finish off games but more importantly, is a tried and tested IPL success.

The team suffered another blow ahead of the tournament with Mohsin Khan likely to sit out the entirety of the event. However, a prudent auction strategy once again meant the side is safe and secure having signed Jaydev Unadkat. The Saurashtra captain has recently been making headlines with a return to the national squad after unprecedented domestic glory. The left-arm seamer, despite a less-than-ideal record in the tournament, has markedly upgraded his skillset over the years and the results have been clearly visible over the past couple of years.

However, perhaps the biggest buy the team made to aid its balance was England spearhead Mark Wood. One of the fastest bowlers in the world, the right-arm quick had a statement-making start to the World T20, claiming nine scalps in just four games at an average of 12 before an injury derailed his tournament. However, the quick is back and raring to go, with the IPL the perfect warmup for the all-important Ashes in June. Not only will the pacer help consolidate the team in the powerplay, but he has also acquired expertise at manoeuvring his pace at the death and makes the side a fearsome well-rounded prospect. 

Perhaps one trump card Lucknow holds that is unique to the franchise is its home ground, the relatively new Ekana Stadium. With only a few internationals played at the venue so far, and the pitch running into a huge controversy not so long ago, no one is quite sure of what to expect when the time comes to play there. The franchise could well mould unexpected pitches and tailor their game accordingly in the hopes of making its home a fortress in its debut IPL season.

Another advantage the team holds over its competitors is the number of options available as Impact Players according to the circumstances, once again thanks to its all-rounder-filled squad. Be it Krishnappa Gowtham, Krunal Pandya, or Prerak Mandak, the side could at any time switch out a bowler or batsman with these two-faceted players to bolster both domains. Even specialists such as Amit Mishra could prove to be key as Impact Players at grounds such as Chepauk, where spinners are bound to play a huge influence on the game. Effectively, the side has all the perfect ingredients to neutralize any home advantage the opposition may hold while raising its own bar as high as possible.

Here is the detailed explanation of the Impact Player rule for IPL 2023

Thus, Lucknow Super Giants were already title contenders with a formidable and balanced squad, but are now one of the favourites to run away champions courtesy of their reinforcements. The franchise seems destined for at least a knockout stages run, and if luck is favourable to them, even a maiden triumph for the city of Lucknow after disappointment for their women counterparts UP Warriorz.

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