About 8,000 years ago, Westeros was hit with a period of darkness and bitter cold called the “Long Night”. It didn't end there, with the White Walkers seeking to end all life by making people part of their dead army.
But then there was a hero who went by the name of Azor Ahai, who forged Lightbringer, a sword made of fire that radiated heat torching everyone to death. While across all the seasons of Game of Thrones, never did we see a glimpse of the Azor Ahai, he might very well go by the name of Shubman Gill.
Gill is that prince that was promised. Everyone who were on the receiving end of his sword were torched to death. If Lightbringer was Azor’s sword, Gill’s CEAT bat was his Lightbringer, it brought life to Ahmedabad, and it torched Mumbai Indians to death.
Westeros is fictional, and so is Azor. But Ahmedabad and Gill aren’t.
Gill’s talent has never been the question. The chatter always surrounded his strike-rate, with his ability to convert a start into a big score, or just clear the boundaries with much more ease.
He’s killed all that three birds with one stone: IPL 2023. With every innings, he’s got King Kohli up on his feet, applauding from wherever has had access to the television screens. In more ways than one, there is a strong possibility that Kohli sees himself in Gill. The comparisons aren’t spooky, it isn’t unreal.
Both are cut from the cloth of the highest quality. Both are poster boys of Indian cricket, if one was in the yester-decade, Gill is the one that is now on the walls of several budding cricketers. The entire world is waiting and applauding the youngster’s efforts to grow big and bigger in stature. It is almost like this is a project that India have built.
Everyone wants a piece of it.
And statistically, Gill has shut up every critic that ever was, in a way that has now converted every one from non-believers to believers, including Imagine Dragons. But this transformation hasn’t been unnatural, if anything, this transformation was something that evidently the next step, it was only a matter of time.
When Gujarat Titans lost the toss, and were put into bat first, there was a certain air of uncertainty that surrounded them. The team was coming on the back of a thunderous loss against Chennai Super Kings, and furthermore, had an opener - Wriddhiman Saha - who was struggling for consistency. It was a surface that had a spongy bounce, and Mumbai Indians’ bowling unit was very sharp in their lines and lengths.
That was evidently visible in the way he approached the innings, 31 off 20. And it was that moment that changed everything around, a dropped catch from one of Mumbai Indians’ trusted fielders, Tim David. Everything after that was like water from a tap, never stopped.
But it was a different tap.
Let’s put Gill’s season in numbers. Until the start of this year, 2022 was his best-ever IPL year, with 483 runs averaging 34.5, and a strike-rate of 132.3. That was a substantial rise from the previous year when he scored 478 runs, with a strike-rate of 118.9. It was in the right direction but then a leap like this wasn’t ever expected.
It was always on the cards but to expect something like this was beyond the realm. In IPL 2023 alone, Gill has smacked 33 sixes, and hit 78 fours, with a boundary every 4.9 deliveries. Now what makes this fact astonishing is that he’s only hit 80 sixes in his entire IPL career, including the 33.
Before this year, all he had hit in the IPL was 47 sixes. That’s ideally what has differentiated him from all the other seasons, that the sixes are now coming naturally to him. As Harsha Bhogle pointed out in the mid-innings break, he’s hitting a six every two and a half overs, as compared to five and a half overs, a substantial difference.
Gill’s issues with run-rate too have been well worth the notice. But this year, there’s been Yashasvi Jaiswal and then Gill, and then the others. In 16 innings this season, the right-handed batter averages 60.79, and if that’s not astonishing enough, he has a strike-rate of 156.4, the second-best for any opener in the league this year.
It doesn’t end there.
What Gill has aced this year has been how he has upped the aesthetics of batting in the shortest format. Until the start of this year, Gill had no centuries in the shortest format, far away from scoring one. But just this year, he has registered three IPL centuries, and one T20I centuries, all of which are one better than the other.
If those three until Friday wasn’t enough, he brought out his fourth on Friday, a knock that will put any of the other knocks to shame. If there was the cross-batted slap off Cameron Green’s bowling for a six, there was a slice off Chris Jordan. Both shots were one better than the other.
If your taste buds did not align with one out of the two, then there was the delicacy that he served straight out of the batting manual against Akash Madhwal. For those who wanted to see a dose against spin, his innings against Piyush Chawla was truly a masterclass of how much time was at his disposal. If you had 24 hours, just like any other normal human being, Gill’s innings looked like he had 38. It was those 14 extra hours that made him look extra special.
You possibly can assume that there’s nothing more that Gill could have accomplished in the last few days. But then the list continues. If his technique, footwork, batting acumen, shot-making abilities and sixes were a testimony to his talent, then there was something called consistency.
Over the years, people are either one or the other. And the ones who are in the exclusive club of both - are genuinely special and rare. Gill belongs to that exclusive club, one where cricketers turn themselves into legends by converting their talents into legacy.
Game of Thrones might have never witnessed Azor Ahai but the fans of the Indian Premier League are well and truly blessed to see Shubman Gill, the prince that was promised. He's well and truly alive and kicking.