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IPL 2022: Shubman Gill, an unconventional T20 innings and foray into playoffs-Opinion News , Firstpost

Shubman Gill’s unusual Twenty20 innings ensured Gujarat became the first team to qualify for the Playoffs in IPL 2022.

A teenage Shubman Gill was already a star, but the nation only took notice after he was named Player of the Tournament in India’s triumphant campaign at the 2018 Under-19 World Cup. At that season’s IPL auctions, Kolkata Knight Riders snapped him up for ₹1.8 crore.

Gill had an excellent season, batting down the order, scoring 203 runs at a strike rate of 146. He was selected for India’s tour of New Zealand in 2018/19. ‘I was not even 10% of what Shubman Gill is when I was 19,’ exclaimed an awestruck Virat Kohli when he saw Gill at the nets.

Shubman Gill scored an unbeaten 63 for Gujarat Titans against Lucknow Super Giants in the IPL. Image: Sportzpics

With 259 runs at 51.80, Gill shone in his debut series, when India pulled off a near-miraculous win in Australia in 2020/21. Despite not living up to the same standards outside Australia, he has remained a probable in the format.

However, by the time the mega auctions, the same could be said of his performances in shorter formats. He had played three ODIs (the most recent of them over a year ago), was yet to make his T20I debut, and had been released by the Knight Riders. There was some merit in that decision, for he had struck at only 120 over the last three seasons.

IPL 2022 Shubman Gill an unconventional T20 innings and foray into playoffs

Shubman Gill’s KKR batting in numbers.

After some frantic bidding, Gujarat Titans acquired him for INR 8 crore. Unlike Kolkata, who bat deep – often using Andre Russell outside the top six – Gujarat were willing to go in with a bowling-heavy line-up.

They used Rahul Tewatia, who batted at seven for Rajasthan Royals and often bowled, as a No. 6 who might not be required to bowl. Rashid Khan, who batted at eight for Sunrisers Hyderabad, has moved a slot above that. Both moves have proved effective.

At the same time, that meant the Gujarat tail started at eight. Their top order consisted entirely of hitters like David Miller, Hardik Pandya, Wriddhiman Saha, Matthew Wade. They needed someone who could bat quickly, but also drop anchor if needed. The acquisition of Gill, thus, made sense.

Gill failed in the first match, but came to his elements in the second, against Delhi Capitals, with a delightful 46-ball 84 out of a total of 171/6. The four sixes were a departure from his usual style of batting. Then, against Punjab Kings, his 59-ball 96 helped Gujarat chase 190 – albeit with Tewatia’s finishing touches.

But just when the fans took notice, Gill underwent a slump, scoring 27 in four innings. He followed with 22 and 31, and Gujarat chased both targets, but he took 24 and 28 balls in the two innings. Against Punjab, he was troubled by Kagiso Rabada a couple of times before his six-ball stay ended in a run out.

Then came the Mumbai Indians match, where he and Saha matched each other stroke for stroke to put on 106 for the opening wicket in 73 balls. Gujarat lost the match, but Gill’s return to form was evident. However, that night’s pitch at the Brabourne Stadium had been easier to bat on than the one that awaited Gujarat for the top-of-the-table clash against Lucknow Super Giants.

Stat: Shubman Gill joins Sachin Tendulkar in batting 20 overs without hitting a six

A win would have made either side the first to qualify for this season’s Playoffs. Both sides boasted of strong bowling attacks, and on a pitch that was far from flat, Gill needed to bat differently from he had for his three previous fifties. There was a chance of the long tail being exposed, so he had to bat deep, but at the same time, he also had to keep scoring.

The first job was to see off the threat of Mohsin Khan, Dushmantha Chameera, and Avesh Khan. Saha and Wade swung merrily at the other end, finding fours before perishing. Gujarat crawled to 35/2 in the Powerplay, their lowest of the season. They had also lost two wickets – not a threat for most teams, but Gujarat have a longer tail than most.

Gill, meanwhile, had adopted a no-risk approach. He had picked up two fours, off a cut and a pull – something he had done in Test cricket over a year ago with ridiculous ease against Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and Pat Cummins at their den.

He lost Hardik Pandya too, but his first unconventional shot came as late as in the 11th over, when he reverse-swept Hardik’s brother Krunal for four. But then, it had been a full toss…

He kept running singles thereafter. Finally, as late as in the 17th over, having taken 42 balls for his fifty, with Tewatia at the other end and only Rashid to follow, Gill abandoned his cautious self. He knew that he had taken it deep enough to take risks.

Thus, when Chameera bowled a slower ball outside off, Gill slammed it straight and high, over the bowler, for four. Chameera went wider and quicker next ball, pitching it further up. Gill simply deflected it to the left of the wicketkeeper for four. He returned to returning the strike to Tewatia.

Gill’s 49-ball 63 not out was a departure from his usual self of batting. The main batter of the side, he had to bat for as long as possible. For that, he had to eliminate risks, and against a quality bowling attack, his best bet was running as much as possible – and minimising dot balls.

The second ball of the 13th over was the last dot ball Gill faced. Since then, he faced only 15 balls (out of 46), and picked up 13 singles and hit two fours. The previous dot ball had been in the ninth over. On a difficult pitch where a side with a long tail kept losing wickets, Gill’s role was to stay invisible at the crease, while returning the strike to the hitter at the other end.

That defied conventional Twenty20 wisdom, but conventional wisdom does not apply to a pitch where the previous table toppers get bowled out in 83 balls. Gill’s unusual Twenty20 innings ensured Gujarat became the first team to qualify for the Playoffs in IPL 2022.

Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketNews and co-author of Sachin and Azhar at Cape Town.

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