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Shubman Gill is the leading scorer in One-Day Internationals with an average of 77. His absence is a big void for Team India to fill. Image Credit: AFP

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Dubai: Shubman Gill not recovering from the illness in time for the second match against Afghanistan has come as a big blow for the Indian team’s chances in the World Cup. Though its going to be a relatively easier outing for India on Wednesday, the Afghanistan match could have helped the opener get into his groove given that Men in Blue will be facing Pakistan’s lethal pace attack in Ahmedabad on October 14 in what promises to be a cracker of a contest.

Gill’s absence was greatly felt during the six-wicket win against Australia particularly when the top order collapsed cheaply. His cool and composed stay was missed against Australia when his replacement, Ishan Kishan, slashed at a wide delivery to be out off the first ball he faced, opening the doors for Australia to get a couple more early wickets to put India on the mat. Gill, even in his worst form, would avoid playing such an absurd shot. From three wickets down for two runs, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul battled hard to give India a winning start. The early wickets could have hurt India had Australia held on to the catch from Kohli. It was a great escape from the hosts!

Intentions to rule the world

The added worry at the top of the order is the form of skipper Rohit Sharma. The 36-year-old, who had scored four centuries in the previous World Cup in England 2019, is not in his sublime touch in recent times. Once he gets his eye in, Rohit has the ability to play long, but of late the stylish opener, who has earned the sobriquet Hitman for his dangerous batsmanship, has been getting out even after decent starts and not able to carry his bat to the end.

It is here that Gill will be a perfect foil. He could assume that role Rohit had played by anchoring the innings. Gill is one of the few in world cricket to play all three formats of the game, so when the going gets tough, he could adopt a more defensive approach. Gill is not just a grinder. He could keep the scoreboard ticking with his delicate placements and has the ability to play big shots with ease, both against spin and pace. He single-handedly took India closer to the target against Bangladesh in the recent Asia Cup, which proclaimed his intentions to rule the world.

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Gill could also play big shots with ease and has the attitude and technique to play long innings. Image Credit: AFP

The 24-year-old opener has been in the form of his life. After striking a purple patch, he has been growing from strength to strength since the beginning of 2022. The Punjab batter has two centuries, one against Australia and the other against Bangladesh, and three half-centuries in the last 10 matches. His compact technique gives him the edge to smother even the best bowling attack, adopting a Test-like approach.

Not travelling to Delhi

“Team India batter Shubman Gill will not be travelling with the team to Delhi on October 9. He will stay back in Chennai and will be under the supervision of the medical team,” according to a statement from the Board of Control for Cricket in India on Monday.

The lanky opener was diagnosed with having dengue on his arrival in Chennai ahead of the opener against Australia. It is still unclear when he will be able to regain his full fitness and be ready for India, though coach Rahul Dravid painted a positive picture two days ahead of the opener. “He [Gill] is certainly feeling better today than he was yesterday, so that’s a positive, but the medical team is monitoring him on a day-to-day basis.”

Given that Gill has scored 1,917 at an astonishing average of 66.10 in just 35 One-Day Internationals and is the leading run-getter this year with 1,230 runs at an average of 72.35, replacing such a quality player is never going to be easy. Team India can only hope and pray, their star batsman is fit and fine for the crucial match against Pakistan.