IPL 2023 Lucknow Super Giants Preview
LSG were another new franchise who enjoyed a strong debut season but can they match that performance in IPL 2023? We preview Lucknow Super Giants chances of reaching the playoffs this season and whether they have what it takes to go one better and make it to the final.
LSG Review of IPL 2022
LSG's success last year was built off the back of KL Rahul and Quinton de Kock dominating from the opening births. Only Jos Buttler, who had an almost super human IPL 2022, scored more runs than the pair with the LSG openers making 10 x 50+ scores between them including 3 centuries.
As the stats below show, LSG didn't worry too much about going hard in the powerplay but instead preserved wickets in order to allow a strong lower order with plenty of all-round options to explode later in the piece.
The impact of Deepak Hooda should also not be underestimated. He has his best IPL season to date in scoring 451 runs which represents a massive acheivement for a player who generally batted outside the top 3.
With the bat, LSG's one weakness was the number 3 birth. Evin Lewis and Manish Pandey had their chances but neither offered the kind of consistency that the LSG management were looking for and it's no big surprise that they have brought in alternatives as we'll discuss later on.
With ball in hand LSG benefited from having a good core of Indian talent to choose from. The 2 Khans Avesh and Mohsin offer plenty of wicket taking ability particularly in the early stages of the game while Ravi Bishnoi and Krunal Pandya were strong front line spin options. That left LSG with the ability to pick and choose from their overseas stars with Tye, Holder and Chameera all contributing when called upon.
Ultimately, LSG will be disappointed with the way they ended the round robin with just 1 win from their last 3 matches. That meant they missed out on the easier route to the final by finishing 3rd and ultimately fell short against a Patidar inspired RCB in the eliminator.
Key stats and relative rankings for LSG in IPL 2022
LSG IPL 2023 Auction
As noted above, the number 3 spot was an issue for the Super Giants last season and it's no big surprise that their largest outlay in the auction was on bringing Nicolas Pooran into the side who will likely bat in that position.
LSG also went in for Ben Stokes no doubt in the hope that he could fill both that number 3 spot and improve their all round options particularly after LSG decided to release Jason Holder. They were ultimately gazumped by CSK in that regard and with most of their budget then going on Pooran, they were left with Daniel Sams and Romario Shephard as direct replacements for the former West Indies captain.
LSG also released Chameera and Tye and have therefore placed a lot of faith in Mark Wood being fit for the full duration of IPL 2023. Cover for him could be provided by young Afghan quick Naveen-ul-Haq who has a growing reputation on the T20 circuit and despite only being 23-years of age has played significantly more T20 cricket than Wood who is 10 years his senior.
As far as experience is concerned, LSG also brought in Jaydev Unadkat who is due to play for his 7th IPL franchise when he turns out for Lucknow in 2023. 2017 remains his one stellar campaign when he took 24 wickets in 12 games but his recent domestic form has lead to him being recalled to the India Test squad and with Mohsin Khan having undergone shoulder surgery a few months ago then he could yet prove a very important player.
LSG Predicted XI IPL 2023
The top 3 looks like it'll pick itself with KL Rahul, Quinton de Kock and Nicolas Pooran forming one of the strongest top orders in the competition this year.
However, not everyone may share that view! In particular KL Rahul and Nicolas Pooran divide opinion amongst cricket fans. KL Rahul has a reputation amongst some as being a 'stat padder' at the top of the order and a batsman who puts his own numbers ahead of the good of the team.
I have to say, I've not seen much evidence of this and over the past 5 seasons he has been by far the most consistent batsmen in the IPL. During that time he's passed 600 runs in a season on 4 occassions, narrowly missing out on making it 5 out of 5 when he scored 593 runs in 2019. In each of those 5 seasons he's also ranked in the top 3 run scorers overall, winning the orange cap in 2020. He is not a big hitting batsmen but he still scores at a career strike rate of over 136 in the IPL which is higher than Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have achieved across their glittering careers.
It's also worth remembering that while at Punjab he had to carry a weak batting unit. If he wasn't able to bat through a significant chunk of the innings then Punjab invariably lost the game. At LSG he has far more depth and fire power around him meaning that he can play his natural game and anchor the innings while others play their more agressive games around him. It's a tactic that paid dividends for LSG last season and given KL Rahul's consistency in previous seasons they'll hope it carries on into to IPL 2023
As for Pooran, it's very much time for him to stop trading off the promise that he showed early in his career and begin delivering on the biggest stage. He scored 353 runs at a strike rate just shy of 170 in IPL 2020 but that was generally playing in the role of a finisher. As his career has gone on, he has been given the opportunity to bat more regularly in the top 4 and LSG will be buoyed by the fact that he finished the recent International League T20 in the UAE as the 5th highest run scorer with 355 at a strike rate of 142.
As noted above, Deepak Hooda had a very successful IPL 2022 and was a key player for LSG in their run to the playoffs. What he and Pooran give the side is an ability to attack spin in the middle overs.
Hooda and Pooran's career record v spin bowling
Ayush Badoni had a break out year in IPL 2022 and has continued to show his potential for Delhi during the domestic season. He finished the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy with 125 runs and a strike rate of 147 generally batting at number 5 which is where you'd imagine he'll be for LSG in IPL 2023. His form in the 50 over and long format cricket since then has been hit and miss but he did finish off with a magnificent 191 in a 4 days game against Hyderabad.
In the lower middle order, LSG have a variety of options and flexibility. For example, don't be surprised to see Krunal Pandya who will probably be carded to come in at 7, slip up the order if LSG want a left-handed option. Meanwhile Marcus Stoinis has largely reinvented himself as a finisher having previously enjoyed success at the top of the order in domestic cricket in Australia. LSG will generally be keen to protect him for the slower bowlers which are a weakness early in his innings.
The other think to keep an eye on with Stoinis will be his role as a bowler. Injury prevented him from bowling in the recently concluded Big Bash league but he has since been turning his arm over both in T20 franchise cricket and for his native Western Australia. Having him fit to do so, will give LSG greater options both with bat and ball.
Having lost Jason Holder and failed with bids to buy Sam Curran and Ben Stokes, LSG clearly feel they were in need of a top quality all rounder.Particularly if Stoinis can bowl then they'll feel that they can make up that short coming across a couple of players including Daniel Sams, Romario Shepherd and Krishnappa Gowtham. Picking either of the former 2 would almost certainly mean no place for Mark Wood in the side while the later would present them with a strong spin attack but limited seam options.
Whatever LSG opt for, it would be a high risk to their batting strength if they were to pick a side that included their best 4 bowling options of Avesh Khan, Mohsin Khan, Ravi Bisnoi and Mark Wood none of whom are good enough to bat at number 8.
That being said, leaving Mark Wood out of the side could also weaken their bowling options. While Krunal Pandya and Ravi Bisnoi are generally good at strangling opposition batsmen, neither is the kind of big turning spinner that might run through a middle order. Wood's hostility coupled with the economy of LSG's spinners would provide a nice balance to their middle over options.
The big concern as far as their bowling goes continues to be at the death. The stats for IPL 2022 demonstrate that this was by far LSG's weakest area of the game last year. While the relative strength of all other areas meant that their death overs bowling didn't cost them a playoff place, it is noticeable that they've done very little to address the issue during the auction.
The one bowler they have added who could potentially have an impact at the death is Jaydev Unadkat. His career stats below show that his change ups have been effective in the later part of the innings. HOwever, it's noticeable that since 2020 he's only taken 6 wickets at the death at an average of 30, strike rate of 15 and economy of 12.3.
Unadkat's death over bowling stats
By comparison, he took 16 wickets in the last 5 overs of an innings during the 2017 IPL at an average of just 10, striking just over once every 6 balls and going at less than 8 an over. If LSG get the 2017 Unadkat then they'll have a very balanced attack, if not then he doesn't represent an improvement on anything that they've already got.
LSG IPL 2023 Predictions
LSG are likely to be there or there abouts with a group of teams who will challenge up until the last couple of games for those final 1 or 2 playoff spots but ultimately I think they'll come up just short.
KL Rahul's form and place in the current Indian Test side is the subject of intense speculation after a couple of poor performances and with Shubman Gill waiting in the wings he may yet get dropped for the final Test against the Aussies. LSG won't want their captain returned to them short of form, confidence or both.
With Mohsin Khan not having played a competitive match since last season's IPL and Mark Wood's body never likely to survive the full 10 weeks of the season it does raise question marks over the depth of this LSG bowling line-up.
Much is likely to depend on their top order and their opening bowlers hitting the heights of last season. Even a slight drop off in form on either front is likely to expose what may well be a long tail and a lack of death bowling options.
Predicted finish: 7th
All stats used in this blog are from my own database which is freely accessible at T20 head to head. Images are my own with the exception of player profiles and background images which are used under a creative commons license or otherwise royalty free
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Definitely a side lacking quality and may be able to win a few games, but cannot rely on two or three players to carry them through the tournament as there are too many games.
Watching KL Rahul against Australia in the Tests, it's like he doesn't remember which end of the bat to hold! So much depends on him and Quinton de Kock to lay a solid platform.
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