In his last 5 ODI innings, James Vince has two fifties and a hundred to his name. He’s managed to turn a corner.
But there was a time, not too long ago, where he used to be memed more than every other cricketer.
Memed for playing the same innings over and over and over again: walking in, looking like a million bucks and then perishing just like that, abruptly, after playing three or four of the most delightful strokes you’re bound to witness.
They say more the talent, greater the frustration (when the individual fails to fulfill their potential), which is why when it came to Vince, it was infuriating to see him consistently squander starts.
The talent was there. You could see it. You don’t play the kind of strokes he did without being gifted.
But inexplicably, the gift wasn’t being translated into consistent scores.
Different player, different format, but with every passing innings, a similar frustration seems to be mounting with Shubman Gill, who evidently, in Tests, just cannot seem to stop playing the same innings over and over again.
16 months ago, an untimely injury prior to the England tour cost Gill his incumbency — thanks to KL Rahul seizing his opportunity — but injuries and other external factors had seen the 23-year-old still be an integral part of the Test set-up. Heading into Wednesday, Gill had started three of India’s five previous Tests, including the all-important fixture at Edgbaston.
The Chattogram encounter, then, was Gill’s fourth Test out of the last six — 12th overall — and another golden opportunity to truly leave a mark. To show the world that he indeed is worth the hype.
For doing so, Gill couldn’t have asked for a better set-up.
Stand-in skipper KL Rahul won the toss, which meant that on a relatively flat Chattogram wicket, with the sun belting down, Gill and India got to bat first. Not just that, they got to do so against a Bangladesh attack that, heading into the first Test, was statistically the worst bowling unit in home conditions in the calendar year, having averaged 45.9.
To put it bluntly, the stage was perfectly set for Gill to 'statpad'. Individuals are often mocked for statpadding, but Gill needed to statpad to not just bolster his stats, but get a feel of scoring big at this level. Heading into Wednesday, Gill had no hundreds to his name; in fact, only a solitary score over 60, which came on that day at the Gabba.
More often than not, the spiciness of a wicket can be gauged within the first dozen or so overs and about 30 balls into the contest. It was evident that there were plenty of runs on offer on this Chattogram pitch. Not a road by any means but, you know, the kind of wicket where, as a bowler, you’ll have to work pretty darn hard to get the better of a batter.
So, great batting wicket, an okay-ish bowling line-up and Gill began the day supremely confident, looking like, you guessed it right, a million bucks.
He registered his first boundary in the fifth over with a trademark back-foot punch, and tripled his tally two overs later. A cracking cut followed by an authoritative pull tended to suggest that Gill was in the zone.
After 25 balls, he had 16 runs and a control percentage of 88.0% to his name and you just got the sense that everything was coming together. For Gill to go and get that big one that had been evading him in whites.
Well, cue anti-climax.
15 balls later, with the pitch still innocuous, Gill found a way to dismiss himself as a botched paddle-sweep went straight into the hands of Yasir Ali, who had so much time that he moved from first slip to leg-slip to take the catch.
And so, just like that, before you could realize, yet another Shubman Gill innings had flattered to deceive.
New day, new opponent, new venue, but a Gill innings that was same old, same old.
For his own sake, Gill needs to start cashing in
The 91 on the final day in Brisbane was so heroic that it’s almost become synonymous with Gill. But the problem is, when it comes to the longest format, Gill is still riding on the Gabba wave from 20 months ago, with no impactful showings since.
Since the 91 at the Gabba, Gill has played 16 innings and in them, has averaged a mere 22.66, passing fifty just twice.
In fact, since February 2021, among Top 4 batters to have played 15 or more innings, only Dominic Sibley and Aiden Markram have fared worse than the 23-year-old.
These are not numbers any batter would be proud of, but Gill would be even more disappointed given all but two of the seven Tests he’s played in the aforementioned period have come in the subcontinent, where you’d expect any top-order batter to thrive, let alone someone of Gill’s talent and pedigree.
Had major technical flaws been exposed, it would have been a serious cause for concern but when it comes to Gill, the frustration mounts from the fact that he merely is not being able to capitalize on starts.
In his last seven innings, he’s passed the 40-run mark thrice and has started extremely well on two other occasions (today and in the first innings at Edgbaston) but he’s been unable to make the starts count. His highest score in this period reads 52.
Such is the natural talent Gill possesses that you feel, with him, it’s a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’. But the ‘when’ needs to arrive sooner rather than later, for you never know when an individual might get left behind, particularly in this Indian set-up where the competition is cut-throat.
For his own sake, then, Gill needs to start cashing in. Wednesday in Chattogram, in every sense, was a big missed opportunity.