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Match Analysis

Shubman Gill showcases his all-format expertise with latest century

He has usually been an anchor in IPL but on Wednesday he regularly hit the ball on the up right from the start

Deivarayan Muthu
Hardik Pandya has just lost his shape and missed a wide yorker from debutant left-arm seamer Ben Lister. Blair Tickner now nails the wide yorker, but Shubman Gill sits deep in the crease, holds his shape, and jabs it away between the keeper and short third with his neurosurgeon-like hands. Tickner slumps to his knees in utter disbelief; Hardik at the other end nods in approval of Gill's special skill to make the bowler's best ball look like a poor one.
Lister then tries the wide yorker to Gill, with protection at deep point, and a short third in place, but Gill is so good that he can carve it away between the two fielders. If you have followed Lister in the Super Smash for Auckland, you'll know that the yorker is his best ball although he also has some cutters in his repertoire.
Lister trusts his best ball once again and shifts his line much straighter and darts it on the stumps. Okay, he has missed his length by just a few inches, but it's still a hard-to-hit delivery. Try telling that to Gill. He shows the full face of the bat and belts it down the ground, perfectly bisecting long-off and long-on. Now, Michael Bracewell and Finn Allen look at each other in disbelief.
Gill goes on to smash an unbeaten 126 off 63 balls in the series decider in Ahmedabad. That is two runs a ball at a venue where both the square and straight boundaries are roughly 70 metres distant. Ahmedabad is no Indore; both Hardik and Rahul Tripathi were caught on the boundary. But this guy, all of 23 years old, clears the boundary seven times in addition to manipulating the field as expertly.
Rohit Sharma knew that Gill was a proper Test-match batter when they first opened together in Australia in 2021. More recently, Gill cemented his coming of age as an ODI opener with a stunning double-century against New Zealand in the first ODI in Hyderabad. That big knock even locked him in as India's opener for the upcoming ODI World Cup in October-November. But, until Wednesday, Gill was more of Clarke Kent than Superman in T20 cricket.
On the eve of the T20I series opener in Ranchi, Hardik was asked whether Prithvi Shaw will get to open the batting on his return to the side. Because since his T20 debut in 2018, Shaw has been the fastest-scoring Indian opener in the powerplay and his strike rate of 152.27 during this phase is among the best in the world. Hardik, though, insisted that Gill would be given the "first opportunity" ahead of Shaw and backed him to come good.
While Gill didn't do too much in the first two T20Is on pitches that were described as "shockers", he showed in the third that he has developed the gears to keep up with the frenetic pace of T20 cricket. In the IPL, he has usually been the anchor at the top for Kolkata Knight Riders and Gujarat Titans, but on Wednesday night, he hung up the caution and regularly hit the ball on the up. All told, Gill scored 34 in the powerplay, his best returns during this phase till date.
Then, when Tripathi teed off, Gill sat back and simply dinked the ball into the gaps. However, after Tripathi holed out and after Gill got to his first fifty off 35 balls, he zoomed to his second fifty off a mere 19 deliveries. It was during this passage of play that Gill transformed into Superman from Clarke Kent, and Metropolis Ahmedabad was thrilled to witness it. He emphatically outscored New Zealand as India sealed the T20I series 2-1.
"It feels good when you practice and it pays off," Gill told Star Sports after winning the Player-of-the-Match award. "I was backing myself to get the big ones even in one-dayers and T20s, and unfortunately it didn't happen for me in the Sri Lanka series and in the first couple of matches here [against New Zealand]. But happy to get the big ones for the team [now].
"I always wanted to play for India and being fortunate enough to play all the three formats is a blessing. I don't think there's any kind of fatigue."
Shubman Gill
"I mean everyone has a different technique to hit the sixes and the talk even with Hardik bhai...he told me before the match and even before the series just to play your game and bat how you normally do. 'You don't have to do anything extra' and he kept on backing me. Fortunately, it paid off for me today in the match."
At his post-match press conference, Hardik, who has also captained Gill at Gujarat Titans in the IPL, was so pleased with Gill's all-format evolution that he compared his ability to Suryakumar's.
"He's technically so sound that it's very easy for him," Hardik said of Gill. "It's just a switch he needs to do to play T20, ODI and Test cricket because he has the game for all formats. So, to be honest, he's not someone who does not need to play behind the wicket because of the kind of shots he can play all around in front [of the wicket] with the gaps. He's actually one of those batsmen along with Surya [Suryakumar Yadav] who can hit good balls and make them a bad ball.
"Having said that, it's just tremendous seeing his growth and it has been very fruitful for me [as captain]. He's a kid who has a right head on his shoulders and going forward I think he's going to be a great value and asset for the Indian cricket team. I wish the best to him, and I want him to continue the great run, which he is having."
New Zealand captain Mitchell Santner also spoke about the challenges of bowling to Gill. "He's pretty tough to stop as we found out with the one-dayers as well," Santner said. "I think we dropped him three times, which doesn't help, but yeah, he kind of applied himself early on the surface. He knew that it [the pitch] was good to bat on and I think his first fifty might have been off 30-odd balls and then his last 70 off 20-odd balls."
Gill has only played 40 internationals, but he already has centuries in all three formats. Only four other Indians have hundreds in all three international formats. Playing the three formats can be a burden even for a 23-year-old, but Gill doesn't want to stop.
"I mean when you're representing your country, I don't think there's any kind of fatigue," Gill said. "I always wanted to play for India and being fortunate enough to play all the three formats is a blessing. I don't think there's any kind of fatigue."
Perhaps, given the way Gill has been rattling off hundreds this year, it is the opposition that is left fatigued. If Gill keeps it going, his all-format future will be limitless.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo