Updated: Jul 28
India tour of West Indies 2022: Shubman Gill was trusted for opening slot in ODIs ahead of Ishan Kishan and Ruturaj Gaikwad.
Two One Day International (ODI) games against the West Indies and both of those games saw ugly ways of dismissals for young India opener, Shubman Gill; one by a suicidal run out and the other was getting caught in the hands of the bowler in an attempt to play the dil-scoop shot on a personal score of 43.
But before those dismissals, Gill snatched the praise of the spectators with his flamboyant shots in both of his innings which were short but relevant to the situation of the game.
With seniors missing, India look to experiment with Gill as opener
Calm, composed and matured were the three words that could easily define Shubman Gill during the three-match ODI series in the Caribbean where he hardly went for a shot in anger. Gill, who was touted as the next big thing in Indian cricket, broke into the senior Indian ODI side after collecting a total of 418 runs at an average of 104.50 in the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup 2018.
After a sudden rise to fame in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 for the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), scoring 203 runs at a strike rate of 146.04, Gill was handed his ODI debut against New Zealand few months before the ICC ODI World Cup 2019. But Gill who got two chances, failed to reach double digits on both occasions.
The inconsistency at the highest level coupled with the presence of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan in the side, meant that Gill was overlooked for the limited overs set-up. Now, on the back of more impressive performances, Shubman has found his name back in the Indian side in the absence of senior pros.
Interestingly, even with the likes of Ishan Kishan and Ruturaj Gaikwad in the squad, India have gone with Shubman Gill in the opening slot which indicates that the 22-year-old is in the scheme of things for India in the 50-overs format.
The first couple of games in the ODI series against West Indies, saw ugly dismissals for the young India opener; one by a suicidal run out and the other was getting caught in the hands of the bowler in an attempt to play the dil-scoop shot on a personal score of 43.
In the third and final ODI of the series, Gill came close to his maiden ODI century before the irregular rain at Port of Spain left him stranded on a run-a-ball 98. Gill was undoubtedly disappointed but the spectators enjoyed and praised his flamboyant shots during the innings which was relevant to the game situation.
“I tried to play according to the ball and let the instincts take over,” expressed Gill, who with 205 runs in the series received the player of the series award.
Rain robbed Gill a shot at a well-deserved century
The track for the third ODI was different from the other two games; the new ball didn’t come well to the bat, as the slower balls were gripping on the surface. The maturity of Gill arrived into play as he just played a few pull and cut shots in the 113-run opening stand, that was dominated mostly by Shikhar Dhawan. By the time the latter got out on 58, Gill celebrated a 60-ball fifty as the heavens opened up.
With the new rules being plated out, India’s innings was cut short to 40 overs and Gill unlocked his T20 game as he cashed in the next 41 runs in just 33 deliveries. He used his feet to crack Hayden Walsh down the ground for a six before slapping Jayden Seals for a boundary over the mid-wicket region.
There was a small part when he slowed down to score his last 14 runs in 15 balls, before the second interruption closed India’s innings to keep Gill unbeaten on 98 with seven boundaries and two sixes.
“It (being asked to open) gave me a lot of confidence,” Gill was amazed with the opportunity of opening with veteran Shikhar Dhawan. “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.”
Majestic performance in international cricket & IPL 2022
The graph seems to have gone up and above as far as Shubman Gill is concerned in the international cricket arena. Since making his debut in the 2020-21 historic Border-Gavaskar series in Australia, Shubman has been India’s third choice Test opener and in the recent rescheduled Test against England in Edgbaston, in the absence of KL Rahul, Shubman opened the innings.
Along with some of his great Test knocks including the match-winning 91 at the Gabba, Gill has polished the old issue of playing with a low strike rate in limited overs cricket. In the 31 IPL games during the 2020 and 2021 editions, Gill bagged 918 runs but at a strike rate of just 118.45 which cost his side a few games too.
But during the last season of IPL in 2022, Shubman Gill managed to overcome this weakness and cracked 483 runs in 16 games at a healthy strike rate of 132.33 for Gujarat Titans, and that bold attitude was crystal clear in both of his innings in the two ODIs against the West Indies.
Gill crushed West Indies opening bowling attack with a 53-ball 64 in the first ODI
Straight bat, high elbow, still head to get on top of the bounce to keep it on the floor and not letting it go in the air - that was what made the innings so special and pleasing to the eyes during the first ODI at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Shubman Gill began with a beautiful boundary towards the cover region and the best part of the shot was that he managed to keep the ball down on the ground even after using his feet to drive the ball. In the very next over, he slapped a boundary off Alzarri Joseph before pulling it for a six towards the fine-leg region. He ended the over with another boundary that raced away through backward point straight to the fence.
There was another over from Jayden Seales where Gill thumped two fours in different regions; he reached 32 in just 23 balls making his senior partner Shikhar Dhawan look pale in front of him.
When the spinner was introduced into the attack, from the very first ball, Gill took the aggressive approach and danced down the track to smack the ball clearly over the mid-on region for a six. Soon, with a single in the square leg region, Gill raised his bat to celebrate his maiden ODI half-century in just 36 balls as the whole crowd appreciated his thunderbolt effort.
Gill looked well set for his first ODI century but got run out on 64 in 53 balls, that was arranged with six boundaries and a couple of sixes. The 119-run opening partnership helped India lay down a solid platform for a match-winning total of 308.
Gill displayed quality again in the second ODI
It was wholeheartedly a different occasion as India were chasing a huge score of 312 and their in-form opener, Shikhar Dhawan, who was awarded the player of the match award for his 97 in the first game, wasn’t middling the ball at all which put pressure on the shoulders of Gill.
The elegance and bold outlook were common in his batting; he was smashing those boundaries but the running between the wickets to keep the scoreboard ticking showed maturity in his batting. And with Dhawan struggling on 13 off 29, Gill kept India in the hunt with his attacking shots before playing a brain fade stroke to be dismissed on 43 in 49 balls that was laced with five boundaries.
The Big Question - Can Gill be the next regular India opener in limited overs?
Since ICC Champions Trophy 2013, India have been blessed with some great opening combinations, especially in the 50-over games. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have given India some fabulous starts, while Ajinkya Rahane too in the absence of Rohit has done well in patches.
KL Rahul, whenever given opportunities, has grabbed it with both hands. But with Dhawan, already aged 36 and Rohit Sharma, aged 35, going almost towards the end of their careers, India should look at different options in the opening slot and to an extent at number three position.
What Gill brings to the table is his young age, just 22 at the moment, and his bold approach aligns well with India’s vision. A little bit of guidance to understand the importance of playing those long innings will help him seize more attention besides taking his side over the line more often.
Who knows, fans may see him opening the batting or coming at number three for India during the ICC ODI World Cup 2027 in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia.