Shubman Gill hit eight fours and five sixes in his pivotal 121 (133 balls) in India’s narrow six-run defeat to Bangladesh in the Asia Cup Super-4 clash at Colombo’s R Premadasa Stadium on Friday. While he rarely scores ugly runs and boundaries, what will delight fans and observers is what he did in between those boundaries.
On a pitch which offered generous break to spinners who were willing to bowl slower, which the Bangladeshis did – and India’s spinners didn’t – Gill’s control percentage was a high 87. He ran 43 singles, five twos and two threes, which meant strike rotation, such an issue for all other Indian batters, came easier to him.
Yes, he played 70 dots, but on a slow pitch, that was bound to happen. Gill alluded to that after the game. “Our chat as a batting group is to reduce dot balls and rotate strike. The track was slow and was taking turn, so taking singles is not easy, especially for new batters. The talk was about playing it late and close to the body.”
Indian spin legend Erapalli Prasanna often says that for a spinner, line is optional but length is mandatory. The Bangladesh spinners were exceptional with their control of length on Friday.
To disturb that and to counter the sluggish surface, where playing strokes in front of the wicket was difficult, Gill’s tactics were to stay back deep in the crease and convert the length balls into short ones and play square off the wicket, especially to the left-arm-spin of Shakib Al Hasan and Nasum Ahmed.
Against the two offies, Mahedi Hasan and Mehidy Miraj, Gill preferred the areas between mid-on and mid-wicket As the spinners tried to compensate and neutralise that foot movement, they started pitching it up closer to Gill and that’s when he seized his chance and started employing the lofted shot to hit sixes.
Gill idolizes Virat Kohli and wants to emulate the match-winning feats of his hero, who has scored 26 of his 47 ODI tons in winning chases. Friday’s hundred was Gill’s fifth in ODIs and the fourth this year, but his first in pursuit of a target. He couldn’t quite take the team home, but the experience of batting that long, in energy-sapping conditions and playing on a surface that challenged all areas of your craft, would have helped Gill to take back plenty of lessons along with a sweat soaked jersey and disappointment in his heart. His ‘six and out’ to Mahedi when 57 runs were needed off 39 balls and a proficient Axar Patel batting at the other end, may be labelled as impetuousness by harsh critics. For Gill, it was just “miscalculation”.
“There’s so much adrenaline when you bat, sometimes you miscalculate,” Gill analysed. “When I got out, you saw there was a lot of time left. If I had batted a bit normally or not that aggressively, we should have been able to get over the line. Fortunately, this was not the final. These are the kind of learnings that as a batsman you want to take and move forward,” he added.
Praising his opening partner, India skipper Rohit Sharma said, “He backs his game and knows exactly how he wants to play as he is clear on what he wants to do for the team. Look at his form over the last year (1000-plus runs in 2023).” That clarity of gameplan and maturity is what could help India in the World Cup.