En route to the West India Tour, Shubman Gill had played all three ODIs spread over two years, the last of which came in 2020. He has since established himself as one of India’s most promising Test batsmen; He also enjoyed his most productive season to date in the Indian Premier League for the Gujarat Titans earlier this year.
But he wasn’t among the best candidates for the Over-50s national team and probably would have missed this trip to the Caribbean without so many regulars. However, at the end of the three-game competition, he wedged himself into the discussion on the future composition of the Indian ODI team with three solid points.
With rivals Ishan Kishan and Ruturaj Gaikwad in the same squad, Gill didn’t miss his chances. He gave away his starts in the first two ODIs but showed signs of adjustment, especially in the third game on Wednesday; he seemed intent on playing longer innings until the rain started halfway into the Indian innings.
In the first ODI, Gill had shown his potential in this format. In largely favorable conditions at Trinidad’s Queen’s Park Oval, he threw himself into an inaccurate bowling attack by the West Indies on the power play, making them pay almost every time they got the row wrong.
Prior to IPL 2022, Gill had told this newspaper that he made a conscious effort to reduce the shuffle-shuffle in his stance when the ball wasn’t doing much, which is often the case in white ball cricket. “That (reducing the shuffle) was an adjustment I made after talking to our hitting coach. I felt like I should limit my initial movement a bit. (If) the ball isn’t swinging much, the less movement in your body, the better off for you,” Gil had said.
The 22-year-old likes to be off the ball anyway, and that showed in the freedom with which he played the square shots and cuts in the series opener. He’d been running on 64 of just 53 deliveries when that momentary loss of concentration happened. He flipped the ball onto a square leg and started jogging for a single. He took his eyes off the ball for a moment and the advancing Nicholas Pooran grabbed the opening. When Gill belatedly attempted to rush to the end of the non-striker, the direct hit had ended his stay.
In the second game he was a bit more cautious as India chased 312 but started to take some risks against the slower bowlers. He swept Akeal Hosein for four as soon as he came on. A few overs later, however, he attempted an uncharacteristically scoop over the wicketkeeper from mid-paced Kyle Mayers and only slammed the ball back to the bowler. It’s a shot he hardly ever plays, even in T20.
Gill is new to the format at this level and it felt like he was trying too hard at times to make the most of the field restrictions and the few overs that followed. He said run-scoring has gotten more difficult this series as the ball has gotten older, so going big at the beginning wasn’t without purpose. But it seemed to bother him occasionally when a border didn’t come for a while; He would shake his head in visible disappointment if he timed the ball to a fielder in the inner ring, something he was known for earlier in T20.
But in the last game his approach was more disciplined. Unless the ball was angled into the pads or really far out, it wasn’t pushing the limit. In fact, he only hit three fours by the time he reached his fifty, costing 60 balls.
However, Gill didn’t let leg spinner Hayden Walsh calm down. He glanced at him to throw a few balls and as soon as he saw flight, Gill got out to hurl Walsh onto the roof beyond Long-on.
After the rainy spell that lasted more than two and a half hours, Gill brought out the destructive side of his game as the match was reduced to 40 overs a side. Out came the slog, the big sweep, and the short arm pull he’s been attempting lately, deliberately playing airborne whiteball to maximize his chances of making a boundary. It’s just a series, of course, but at least Gill has made a compelling case for getting more of it in this format.
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