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Match Analysis

This is the Shubman Gill we all want to see

A batter who has been considered too slow for T20 cricket hit an effortless, match-winning 84 off 46, with only six dot balls

Hemant Brar
Hemant Brar
Shubman Gill lets out a cry of frustration. He wanted to cut this length ball from Kuldeep Yadav, but there was no room, and he ended up punching it back towards the bowler.
Gill was batting on 47 off 30 at that point and that was only the fourth ball he failed to score off. He would end up with a sublime 84 off 46, with just six dots including the one that dismissed him.
The Pune wicket for the Gujarat Titans-Delhi Capitals game wasn't an easy one to start on. The new ball was moving around, as it has often done this season. Plus, it wasn't coming onto the bat, which made run-scoring difficult. Vijay Shankar, batting almost exclusively in the powerplay, managed only 13 off 20 balls. Hardik Pandya was on 16 off 18 at one stage before finishing on 31 off 27.
On a surface where the rest of the Titans batters managed only 80 off 74 balls, Gill cruised at a strike rate of 182.60. To put it into perspective, his strike rate for Kolkata Knight Riders last season was 118.90. This, despite their head coach Brendon McCullum "time and time again" stressing on the need to be aggressive at the top of the order.
Perhaps Gill's game isn't built to attack all the time. He is more in the mould of an anchor than a power-hitter. At Knight Riders, there were times the more he tried to attack, the more dots he consumed. And the more frustrated he looked.
Here he was positive without being over-aggressive. He floated like a butterfly but didn't sting like a bee. For the final effect, he metamorphosed into a silk moth and added that soft touch to his shots.
The timing was there right from the start. On top of that, he rotated the strike well and ran hard between the wickets. For the boundaries, he trusted his go-to shots: the short-arm jab through midwicket and the half-cut, half-punch in front of cover.
When he brought up his fifty off 32 balls, it wasn't necessarily a blazing knock, but it was already an important one.
Post-fifty, with the pitch having eased out, Gill scored 34 runs in the next 14 balls. During this period, he gave a glimpse of his inventive side as well. Against Khaleel Ahmed, he jumped outside the off stump and lapped him to the fine-leg boundary. He even tried a reverse drag against Axar Patel but couldn't connect.
After Titans' innings, Gill told Star Sports that he felt he left a few runs out there, both for himself and his team. However, he had almost single-handedly lifted Titans to 171 for 6. With not much dew expected, it was a decent total, which - thanks to Lockie Ferguson's 4 for 28 - turned out to be a winning one also.
Ferguson was Gill's team-mate at Knight Riders too and has witnessed his growth from close quarters.
"Having played with Gilly for the last three years, previously at KKR and once again here this year, it has been awesome to see his progression as a player," Ferguson said after the game. "There is no doubt he has got unbelievable talent and so much time [to play his shots]. I know from bowling to him in the nets he has all the time in the world.
"Seeing him extend that tonight and get a big score… [It was] exceptional batting. I know he would be upset not to go for a big hundred, but I am sure that's just around the corner."
Titans' captain, Pandya, too was full of praise for his opener. "This is the Shubman Gill we all want to see," he said at the post-match presentation. "That the way he is batting, the kind of confidence he is carrying, it's gonna rub on to all the batters and help us going forward."
Before the start of the tournament, Gill had shrugged off the debate about his low strike rate, and had spoken about how every situation required a different mindset. The way he built his innings on Saturday was just an example of that.

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo