Four centuries in seven international matches. That includes a double ton. All of that came in white-ball cricket. Not bad for a batter who is best suited for Tests.
Shubman Gill is a classical batter: one who plays with a straight bat and is bereft of ungainly swipes. His technique is immaculate, and he has the temperament to play long innings. We knew that. But his recent white-ball batting exploits have been incredible.
I certainly didn’t see them coming. His form has been superb: the century against Sri Lanka in Thiruvananthapuram was followed by a double century against New Zealand in Hyderabad. And another ton in Indore. All of them were in One-Day Internationals, where batters have the liberty of playing themselves in before the final charge.
The art of T20 batting
That makes the century in the T20 International in Ahmedabad more impressive. The unbeaten 126 off 63 balls against New Zealand silenced his critics, who have carped at his struggles in the T20 format. The ton, the highest score by an Indian in T20 Internationals, clearly shows the progress of the 23-year-old from Punjab.
It’s not as if Gill deciphered the art of T20 batting. He merely adapted his game to the format. There seems to have been some introspection on how he could use his technique to suit the demands of the shortest format.
Let’s look at the Ahmedabad knock. In many ways, it was a typical Gill innings as he threaded shots through gaps in the field. He repeatedly drove the ball on the rise, and his wristy strokes helped coax the ball expertly into unmanned areas.
The first fifty arrived in 35 balls before he shifted gears to speed to his second fifty in 19 deliveries. That’s a clear indication of a batsman in form, a batsman who could place the ball into areas of his choice.
Gill cleared the boundary seven times with clean hits. Not a hint of brutality in them. Most of them were products of good timing. Gill the T20 player has arrived. One breezy knock is not enough; he needs more to reinforce his reputation. More so since the high-quality talent pool makes the scramble to playing spots fierce.
There’s no mistaking Gill’s credentials as a Test match player. His debut in Australia was memorable, having played a steady hand in India’s win in the second Test, followed by a strokefilled 91 that laid the foundation for the incredible Indian success in Brisbane.
But white-ball cricket was not his cup of tea. Or so we thought. His struggles in the Indian Premier League is well known. His stint at Kolkata Knight Riders wasn’t great, although he did produce some good knocks in an anchor role. But his tepid scoring rate gave rise to murmurs that the Punjab lad is not cut out for T20 cricket.
Red-hot form in white-ball cricket
A move to the new franchise of Gujarat Titans seemed to have helped as Gill cast away the shackles of undue caution and started to play with more assurance. Captain Hardik Pandya’s trust could well be one of the reasons.
Gill hit a purple patch in ODIs. His red-hot ODI form ensured a place in the T20I squad to play the Kiwis. That faith was not misplaced, as he notched the highest score by an Indian in ODIs.
With the unbeaten 126, he joined the club of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli and became the fifth Indian to have centuries in all three formats. That augurs well for India ahead of the 50-over World Cup.