"You might see me play some cheeky shots in the IPL", Gill had said, but we didn't see any of those in our win over the Delhi Capitals.
Whenever Shubman Gill has a spare moment, and after cricketing science evolves enough - he ought to get his DNA tested, to see if he’s genetically incapable of playing a non-aesthetic shot. It’s true whether he’s setting up India’s most famous chase in recent times, batting three and a half hours for 91 at the Gabba. It’s true even when he’s batted for a third of that time while smashing about the same number of runs for Gujarat Titans in IPL 2022.
Although ‘smashing’ seems a misnomer with Gill. He doesn’t ever look like he’s trying to belt the leather off the ball, and he didn’t against Delhi Capitals in Pune too. He still made 84 off 46, a strike rate of 182.60. It was vintage Gill, and it was vintage T20 batting, all in one.
Gill was batting in the first innings of a night match. That meant dew. That meant batting first was going to be way more difficult than batting second, when the wet ball slides nicely onto bat. That difficulty was reflected in the Titans’ batting figures: a batting line-up packed with power from top to bottom could only chug along in third gear. All the while Gill was purring in overdrive.
In the second innings, Lockie Ferguson bowled his familiar rockets and broke Delhi Capitals’ chase apart, but how crucial Gill’s knock was, could be seen in the eventual margin of 14 runs, where Titans also had to operate with one bowler less after Varun Aaron picked up a niggle and could bowl only one over. Without Gill’s knock, Titans wouldn’t have had the cushion of the margin they needed with one bowler short.
“Having played with Gilly over the last three years, with KKR and then again here this year, it’s been awesome to see his progression as a player,” Ferguson said after the match. “There’s no doubt that he’s got unbelievable talent, and so much time. I know, bowling to him in the nets, he has all the time in the world. But seeing him tonight really extend that and get a big total… I know he would be upset not to get the big hundred, as he would be, but it’s just around the corner. Exceptional batting tonight.”
If Gill has “all the time in the world” when he’s facing Lockie 150kmph Ferguson, then it perhaps shouldn’t be surprising if he pulls off this sort of innings consistently.
The deeper numbers from Gill’s innings made for equally spectacular reading. He scored at a strike rate of 156 against pace bowlers. That’s excellent, but as a top-order bat, Gill’s hitting against pace is expected to be proficient. Against spin, Gill smashed – there’s that word again, but it seems apt – 45 runs off 21 balls. A strike rate of 214.28. That is elite. And that is against spinners of the calibre of Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav. It needs a special talent to be able to do that. The world has always known Gill is a special talent, but this was a nice little reminder.
There was a slog-swept six off Axar in the powerplay to start things off. Then a dismissive pull for four off Kuldeep followed by an even more regally dismissive straight drive into the sightscreen. But Gill wasn’t done with the highlights reel, there was still an Axar over to come in which he hit two sixes, across the line and straight. Everytime Delhi Capitals threatened to pull Titans back, Gill unfurled one of his velvety hits.
It was exhilarating. It was elegant. It was pristinely classical batting at a T20 rate. It was Gill being Gill.