Shweta Haranhalli
15 Jan 2023 | 03:09 PM

Spectacular Shubman Gill highlights the importance of pecking order

Ishan Kishan's double hundred sprung a real debate on social media before Gill sealed it in some style

On 10th December 2022, when the fans of Indian cricket, or rather world cricket, were reveling in the success of Ishan Kishan's blistering double hundred against Bangladesh in Chattogram, a young 23-year-old was indeed applauding his teammate but also wondering if he had just lost his spot as an opener in the playing XI. 

When the Indian squad for the away series against Bangaldesh was announced last month, there were question marks revolving around the exclusion of Shubman Gill from the 17-member contingent. 

While there were reports of workload management, Gill was fine-tuning his skills for the Test matches against Bangladesh away from the glaring eyes of the media.

There ain't any doubt that the double-hundred scored by the southpaw shattered numerous records and marked a glorious chapter in the history of Indian cricket, but a one-off knock shouldn't really take away all the consistent performances from the Fazilka-born batter in the last 12 months. 

With the Indian team set to face a doughty Lankan side in a three-match home series, there were plenty of talks surrounding Rohit Sharma's opening partner ahead of the first ODI in Guwahati. 

However, on the eve of the game, the Indian skipper made it absolutely clear that Gill would indeed stride out to bat with him, given his exploits in this format in the past season. 

"It is fair that we give Gill a chance to have a long run because in the last couple of games, he has gotten us a lot of runs. I am not going to take anything from Ishan, and he has been wonderful for us. He got a double hundred, and I know what it takes to get a double hundred, " Rohit said in the pre-match press conference.

"But just to be honest and be fair to the guys, who have done really well before that we need to give those guys enough chances as well,” he further added. 

With all the doubts surrounding the opening combination squashed, it was time for live-action to commence in Assam. And as the Indian openers walked out to bat, all eyes were on Gill as he took center stage. 

A couple of solid defences and some crisp drives, the right-handed batter was away, leading India's charge in the powerplay along with Rohit. In the next 75 minutes that followed, Gill enthralled the fans with an array of strokes all around the ground before being dismissed for 70 off 60 deliveries. 

While he showcased his skills as an opener, only a solitary hundred in the 15 ODI innings was bound to haunt him. A low score followed at the iconic Eden Gardens, and Gill set foot in God's own country with hope in his eyes, aiming to seal his spot for the World Cup scheduled later this year. 

The art of constructing an ODI innings

A sweltering and humid afternoon greeted the two sides in Thiruvananthapuram for the final game of the series. The coin landed in favour of Rohit, and the Indian team opted to bat first.

Six runs off the first 19 deliveries of the innings. 

Shubman Gill yet to get off the mark in the first ten balls he had faced. 

And the ball keeping a tad bit low. 

The first three-and-a-half overs had drama written all over it. 

The pressure was mounting.

However, as Lahiru Kumara dropped one short and wide on the second delivery of the fourth over, Gill's eyes lit up, and so did his fortunes. A crunch off the backfoot past the point fielder for a boundary, and Gill was away. 

Well, guess it was the kind of shot that was needed to instil some confidence in the youngster as he went from strength to strength to dismantle the Sri Lankan bowling unit. 

While he started slowly in this innings, he smashed Kumara for four successive boundaries in the sixth over to give the Indian innings some much-needed momentum. 

However, this ain't the first time he has done this in ODI cricket, as he has batted since the start of 2022, the right-handed batter has taken his time initially to acclimatize to the pace of the wicket before crafting his way through the middle overs. 

In the 15 innings Gill has played thus far since 2022, he has scored at a strike rate of 95.7 in the first 20 deliveries of his innings. In the next set of 20 balls to follow, he has bettered it with 102.25 and 105.45 before launching an attack on the opposition bowlers after facing 60+ deliveries. 

And today's knock was a prime example of the 23-year-old learning the art of mastering the innings as he managed to see off the new ball en route to his scintillating hundred.

With some delightful strokes all around the carpet, Gill smashed 116 runs off 97 deliveries studded with 14 boundaries and two massive sixes to lay a solid foundation for the Indian team in their quest for a formidable first innings total. 

" It feels very good to score a hundred. It is always good when you convert a start into a big one," he said in the mid-innings interval. 

And while the hundred seemed to have done a world of good for Gill and the fans of Indian cricket, it also helps us understand and acknowledge the importance of the pecking order in the team and the direction in which the team management wants to take Indian cricket forward. 

Hindsight is such a wonderful thing, eh?

The three games not only helped Gill strengthen his case as an ODI opener alongside Rohit but also possibly shut the door on Shikhar Dhawan's return to the national side. 

Well, only time will tell how much India would benefit from this new-look combination but with the glimpses we have seen in this series, we can rest assured as the best, it seems, is yet to come. 

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