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Analysis

How Gill and Sudharsan left CSK 'shell-shocked'

Their onslaught left CSK resorting to Plan B and Plan C pretty quickly and even start thinking about Plan D, head coach Fleming said

Hemant Brar
Hemant Brar
11-May-2024
Shubman Gill generally celebrates his hundreds by bowing down with a smile on his face. There is some wholesomeness to it. But Friday was different. After reaching the three-figure mark against Chennai Super Kings in Ahmedabad, he jumped, threw an air punch and let out an expletive.
It was an outburst of pent-up anger after his lean form and Gujarat Titans' three successive losses that had left them on the verge of elimination from IPL 2024.
In a season where every other batting unit has been pushing the envelope, GT, the 2022 champions and 2023 runners-up, seemed to be stuck in the past. Before this game, their scoring rate in the powerplay was 7.23 and in the middle overs 7.70 - both the worst in this IPL.
It reflected in the results too: four wins in 11 games. A loss against CSK would have knocked them out in front of their home crowd. But Gill and Sai Sudharsan changed the script and smashed a hundred each to keep their faint hopes alive.
Until then, it had been a mixed season for Gill. He had started well, scoring 255 runs in the first six games at an average of 51.00 and a strike rate of 151.78. In the next five, though, he could manage only 67 runs at a strike rate of 101.51. Three times he was dismissed in the single digits.
Gill's opening partner, Wriddhiman Saha, was struggling even more. In nine games, he had an average of 15.11 and a strike rate of 118.26. The lack of runs and momentum at the top of the order regularly exposed GT's brittle middle order.
Sudharsan, their No. 3, was scoring runs but at a strike rate of 131.67. In IPL 2024, that was on the lower side even for an anchor, especially when your openers were not firing.
On Friday, though, everything fell into place for GT. Saha was out with a niggle, so Sudharsan got an opportunity to open the innings with Gill. The left-right combination benefitted GT in two ways. First, it meant one batter always had the shorter boundary to his leg side. Second, it did not allow CSK to use their spinners the way they would have liked.
Gill and Sudharsan took advantage and plundered 210 in just 104 balls, the joint-highest opening stand in the IPL. At one stage, it was more of a contest between Gill and Sudharsan than between GT and CSK. After 16 overs, both batters were on 96 off 48, and the race to score the 100th IPL hundred was on.
It was Gill who had that honour. Facing his 50th ball, he got a full toss from Simarjeet Singh that he duly flicked to the square-leg boundary. On the last ball of the same over, Sudharsan also brought up his hundred, and he too got there in 50 balls.
While the two finished similarly, they had started their innings in contrasting manners, with Gill doing the bulk of the scoring in the powerplay.
CSK had opted to bowl hoping the red-soil pitch would help spinners early. Gill disrupted that plan in the opening over itself. Facing his first ball, he hit Mitchell Santner for four. Two balls later, he sashayed down the track and launched the spinner for a straight six. By the end of the third over, he had raced to 20 off eight balls.
Gill's intent took GT to 58 for no loss at the end of the powerplay. It may not sound a lot - Sunrisers Hyderabad have breached 100 twice in the first six this season - but it was the second-best start for GT.
Meanwhile, Sudharsan was on 39 off 29 after eight overs. It was looking like yet another anchor-ish innings from him but then he pressed on. In the next three balls, he slogged Ravindra Jadeja for a four and a six to bring up his fifty.
He followed it up with successive sixes off Simarjeet and successive fours off Daryl Mitchell. With a slog-swept six off Santner, he moved to 92 off 44 balls, leaving Gill far behind, on 66 off 34.
Gill narrowed the gap, and then overtook Sudharsan, by hitting three sixes in four balls off Mitchell. The second of those sixes came via a drop from Deshpande who parried the ball over the long-off boundary.
"I think we were through Plan B and Plan C pretty quickly and maybe started getting into Plan D," CSK head coach Stephen Fleming said after the match. "It was the batting of high calibre. Sometimes you have to doff the cap and say well played, and on this occasion, I thought those two were great.
"We were pretty shell-shocked and even our fielding, which has been good over the years, was put on the back foot. There were catches dropped and that was a little bit unusual for us."
CSK did make a comeback towards the end, conceding only 22 in the last three overs. But Gill and Sudharsan had caused irreparable damage by then.

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo