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Match Analysis

Shubman Gill shows how good he can be

Hyderabad witnessed a player with immense self-belief and the special ability to hit good balls to the boundary

Deivarayan Muthu
19-Jan-2023
Shubman Gill brought up his double-century in 145 deliveries  •  Associated Press

Shubman Gill brought up his double-century in 145 deliveries  •  Associated Press

The ball has disappeared beyond long-off. About 31,000 fans at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad are losing it. But there is one man who is just super cool.
It feels like the climax of a blockbuster movie with the hero already knowing that everything was going to be alright. Shubman Gill walks down the pitch to the non-striker's end. Slowly. Confidently. Nonchalantly. Twenty-three-year-olds aren't supposed to do this when they are 194 not out in an ODI. They're not supposed to do this against one of the fastest bowlers in the world. But here he is. The future of India's batting.
Gill had already been branded as the next Virat Kohli. Yet, his place in the ODI side was being questioned because Ishan Kishan, who had shellacked a double-century of his own against Bangladesh in Chattogram, had to sit out to make room for Gill.
This is the state of India's batting right now. Shikhar Dhawan, one of India's finest ODI openers, can't even find a place in the squad. There are so many people queuing up to take strike. So even though you might be a generational talent, when you hear people zeroing in on your strike rate, especially in T20 cricket, and saying that it isn't good enough, it starts to weigh on you. Or at least it should.
Gill, though, seemed to openly laugh at all of this when he went 6, 6, 6 against Lockie Ferguson to become the youngest double-centurion in ODI cricket. This was a statement and so was the roar that followed. It contained anger. It contained vindication. It contained joy. We were all watching a player with immense self-belief, showing everyone how good he can be. And Hyderabad absolutely loved it. After reaching his hundred, Gill bowed to the crowd. After he reached the double-hundred, it was the crowd's turn to bow to Gill.
Not since Kohli has a young India batter dictated terms like this to the opposition. The Hyderabad pitch was a challenging one with some balls holding up and others skidding onto the bat. Rohit Sharma had been dismissed by a Blair Tickner ball that had stuck in the surface. Kohli was dismissed by skid and quick turn from Mitchell Santner. Suryakumar Yadav then spooned Daryl Mitchell to extra-cover. Wickets kept falling around Gill. The second-highest score in India's innings was Rohit's 34. Gill himself was dropped twice, but nothing could stop him from powering India's innings in the middle and end overs with his attacking enterprise.
Gill has the special ability to hit good balls to the boundary. When Santner darted one into the pitch, with two men in the deep on the leg-side boundary, Gill took them on and swatted a six over deep midwicket. It wasn't a long hop, but Gill made it seem like one because of his strong back-foot game, which he honed on cement wickets, and delightful wristwork. After Kohli got out and he got a life on 45, Gill even charged at offspinner Michael Bracewell and slog-swept him over the bigger boundary for six. Gill kept batting with similar high intent to shut out New Zealand's attack and propel India to a dew-proof total of 349 for 8.
"Not a conscious effort [to keep batting aggressively], I would say, but with an extra fielder inside the circle, we see other teams pushing in the middle overs," Gill said at the post-match press conference. "And even today when wickets were falling, my main focus was to show some intent to the bowler because it becomes very easy for the bowler to bowl dot balls if the batsman is not going to show any intent that he's going to hit any boundaries - even if we have lost a wicket. So that was my intent - even when wickets were falling to show the bowler that I will hit you if you're going to bowl bad balls."
Gill's no-holds-barred assault towards the end of the innings - smashing six sixes in a space of 11 balls - cemented his coming of age as a white-ball opener. He had threatened to go big in Harare last year and more recently against Sri Lanka this year, but couldn't. On Wednesday, though, he didn't miss out.
"It [the double-century] means a lot to me obviously," Gill said. "I think in the first ODI against Sri Lanka and in the third ODI, I was set, and I was looking to get a big score, but unfortunately that didn't happen for me. Once I was set, the main focus for me was to obviously be there for the team and score as many runs as possible. And it feels good when it pays off."
It also meant a lot to the Hyderabad fans who turned up in droves despite the venue being cut off from the city, and despite the traffic diversions imposed for the game as well as for the funeral of the last titular Nizam of Hyderabad making it even more difficult for them to reach the ground. They came anticipating a Kohli special or a Suryakumar special - they had reserved their biggest cheers for them. They eventually left with something that was perhaps better.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo