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Match Analysis

Serene Gill strengthens his case as India's back-up opener in ODIs

Two rain delays aside, nothing could interrupt his rhythm as he struck an unbeaten run-a-ball 98

Deivarayan Muthu
There's an air of serenity around Shubman Gill. He barely played a shot in anger during the three-match ODI series in the Caribbean, but he was left angered by the manner of his dismissals in the first two ODIs.
In the series opener, some lax running between the wickets saw him being run-out for a 53-ball 64. In the second match, he attempted a bizarre scoop off a legcutter from Kyle Mayers, only to chip it back to the bowler for 43 off 49 balls.
In the third ODI on Wednesday, Gill came agonisingly closer to a hundred, but intermittent rain in Port-of-Spain left him stranded on a run-a-ball 98. Perhaps, he was disappointed once again when he dragged himself off the field, with India's innings ending abruptly on 225 for 3 in 36 overs. However, Gill appears to have done enough on this tour to become India's back-up opener in ODI cricket, ahead of Ruturaj Gaikwad.
Two rain delays aside, nothing could interrupt Gill's rhythm at the Queen's Park Oval. He was also conscious of not giving his wicket away, shelving low-percentage shots and showing urgency between the wickets.
The Port-of-Spain pitch was a curious one once again: even the new ball didn't quite come onto the bat and the cutters stopped at the batters. Gill, though, sussed out the conditions early and checked his cuts and pulls. As for Shikhar Dhawan, he took more risks and dominated a 113-run opening partnership with Gill. The stand, though, ended when legspinner Hayden Walsh Jr had Dhawan skewing a wrong'un to midwicket. By then, Gill had worked his way to a 60-ball fifty.
Rain arrived when India were 115 for 1 in 24 overs. After a delay of almost two-and-a-half hours cut India's innings to 40 overs, Gill came out and unlocked his T20 game. From being on 51 off 65 balls, he cranked up the tempo to hit 47 off his next 33.
Upon resumption of play, Gill dashed out of the crease and pumped Walsh down the ground for a six, with the stillest of heads and smoothest of bat swings. He also lined up fast bowler Jayden Seales and swatted him off his chest over midwicket for four. Left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein was shovel-swept past short fine leg with utmost ease for four more. Despite the absence of a left-hander in their middle order, India got on top of Walsh, Hosein and Gudakdesh Motie, another left-arm spinner, thanks in no small part to Gill and Shreyas Iyer.
Ahead of the third ODI, Gill had publicly said that he was enthused by the opportunity to open the batting with Dhawan ahead of the other contenders.
"[Asking me to open] gave me a lot of confidence," Gill had said. "To be given to play a game for India, especially at the international level feels good. It was important for me to pay that trust back and I was happy to contribute to the team's cause.
"Opening the batting alongside Shikhar has been great. He has so much experience, has played all over the world and I get to learn a lot."
In the third ODI, which was essentially a dead rubber, India's team management might have been tempted to take a look at Gaikwad, but they stuck with Gill, who seized his chance and repaid the team management's faith once again.
Dhawan was so impressed by Gill that he said he sees shades of Rohit Sharma in Gill.
"He [Gill] has got a very good technique and he is a classy player; you can see that the touch he's got - I think he has got a bit of Rohit touch in him," Dhawan said after India won the rain-hit third ODI by 119 runs. "He has a lot of time in him. Good to see that he has scored 98 today. He knew how to convert his fifty to 90s. We both got two 100-run partnerships in three matches, that's a very good sign. The way we handled the first ten overs and their bowling attack, it was really good."
Rain might have robbed Gill of his maiden ODI ton, but it was a tour to remember for him. After being omitted from all three squads for India's last tour of the Caribbean in 2019, he came away with the Player-of-the-Series award in the ODI leg this time around.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo