Is India sweating on the fitness of Shubman Gill? Not really. The Indian batting is solid enough to negotiate the eddies of earlier games in the World Cup 2023.
The league phase can be notoriously tricky as champions England found out, losing the inaugural match to New Zealand by a distance. Pakistan overcame some jitters to see off the Netherlands, and India had to survive a rocky start to subdue Australia.
The start, that’s where Gill comes in. After all, he’s the Indian opener who has been pencilled in to partner skipper Rohit Sharma. A bout of dengue floored him ahead of the tournament, and his replacement Ishan Kishan lasted only a ball against the Baggy Greens.
How Gill topped the charts
Would Gill have fared better? Given his record, the 24-year-old would have stood firm against Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. He has the skill and temperament to withstand their firepower.
Look at Gill’s stats this year. He leads the scoring charts for India in ODIs with 1,230 runs, including two centuries and a half-century. That came at an average of 72.38 and a strike rate of 105.03. Which means India would want him ready for the next game.
Unfortunately the fever continues to linger, and Gill had to stay back in Chennai while the Indians departed for Delhi to take on Afghanistan. That deprives the Punjab lad of the time to fine-tune his game ahead of the crucial match against Pakistan on Saturday.
Gill’s also blessed with a fine cricketing brain. Despite being an opener, he can bat deep and finish games when chasing totals.
The Indian team management seems to be in no rush to get Gill ready for the Pakistan game. It’s a high-stakes game, but they wouldn’t want to gamble on Gill’s fitness. They have an adequate replacement in Kishan, and KL Rahul could open too, having played a similar role in the Twenty20 matches. But Rahul is better off in the middle-order, where he has reeled off a few fine knocks. So, India is likely to stick with Kishan for the time being. It also gives them a lefthand-righthand combination at the top.
Why Gill’s a generational talent
Why is Gill so important? First, he’s been in fine form, scoring runs by the buckets. And he’s a thoroughbred opener trained in the fine art of facing the new ball.
Does that matter in white-ball cricket? It matters in One-Day Internationals, where two balls are used (one at each end) to preserve the shine. The sheen lasts longer and the seam pronounced, allowing deliveries to swing and move off the pitch. That requires an opener skilled in playing the moving ball.
- How Virat Kohli and KL Rahul turned the tables on Australia in Cricket World Cup 2023
- Drop Kohli, lose game: Australia shrug off catch blunder in World Cup
- South Australia’s Fraser-McGurk smashes fastest one-day hundred in 29 balls
- Five takeaways from India’s thrilling win over Australia in World Cup opener
Look back at some of the early games, and you will find that the pacemen have been getting help from the pitch. That’s how Australia pushed India on the back foot. The collapse (2/3 in 2 overs) will be on the back of their minds when India take on Pakistan. Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf can do what Starc and Hazlewood did. So India may have wanted their best opener out in the middle. That’s unlikely to happen, given that Gill’s still recovering from the energy-sapping dengue fever.
While India will be looking for short-term options, the medical team will be keen to get Gill ready for at least the latter half of the tournament. He’s become a key member of India squads in all formats.
Besides being a fine opening batter, Gill’s also blessed with a fine cricketing brain. He can bat deep and finish games when chasing totals. We have seen him do that for Gujarat Titans and for India.
Little wonder, Gill’s has been called a generational talent. After Sachin Tendulkar, India has had Virat Kohli. When Kohli hangs up his boots, Gill is expected to take the mantle. Gill’s the new Kohli.