Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw: IPL's window of opportunity

  • The young India openers will have much to prove when Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Capitals go up against each other in IPL’s Qualifier 2 at Sharjah.
Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw.(IPL)
Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw.(IPL)
Updated on Oct 12, 2021 09:27 PM IST
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Shubman Gill has hardly put a foot wrong in his short Test career. Making his debut in Melbourne, he made an eye-catching 45 and an unbeaten 35 in India’s win. He finished the series with an impactful 91 on the final day of the Brisbane Test to set up an epic victory.

It is the kind of start that ensures a long run for any opener. But the talented batter is fighting for his spot after playing one more series. He got injured before the Test series in England, and KL Rahul came in and reestablished his place as Rohit Sharma’s opening partner.

Also read: Delhi Capitals braced for KKR’s Narine-led spin threat on slow Sharjah

The competition for the opener’s spot is like no other. Gill’s U-19 captain Prithvi Shaw is also in the running. The two have been exchanging places in the India team. Shaw lost out to Gill in Australia and when Gill was injured, Shaw recalled into the squad in England.

It means Gill will have to work his way back. There’s only one way to do it—runs and more runs. In Indian cricket, whatever the format, IPL runs do matter because of the grand stage it provides.

Shaw made it count in the IPL first leg with swashbuckling knocks. Along with his record-breaking exploits in the 2020 Vijay Hazare that marked his comeback after the Australia low, the Mumbai batter was also picked for the limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka.

On Wednesday, the KKR versus DC game will see Gill and Shaw being pitted against each other. The UAE leg saw both struggle to acclimatise. Gill started with 48 but 13, 9, 30 and 7 followed. Shaw started with 11, 10, 6 and 18. They have however run into form at the right time. Gill’s last three innings are 57 versus SRH, 56 versus RR, 29 versus RCB. Shaw also started firing with 48 against RCB and 60 against CSK.

On the sluggish Sharjah pitch, batting has been laborious. It gets tougher as the game progresses. The best time to get quick runs is at the start, against the hard, new ball.

Gill will have an advantage, having adapted to the Sharjah surface. In the three knocks there, he has got 30 against DC, 56 versus RR and 29 versus RCB on Monday. Shaw has played one game in Sharjah and was out cheaply.

Gill has also shown the maturity to handle the tough phase. The pressure of expectations and in making a comeback can weigh down a player when the runs dry up. But Gill has taken the setbacks in his stride. His body language was always positive. Within moments of getting out, he would be chirpy in the dugout, enjoying the success of his teammates. It has helped him turn things around quickly.

“I didn't have the best first leg in India but I knew I was batting well and it was just a matter of spending time in the middle; that was the conversation with the coach (Brendon McCullum),” Gill said after Monday’s innings.

As for technical adjustment, former New Zealand all-rounder Scott Styris, the Sports Stars Dug-Out guru, demonstrated with data how Gill looks to go further down the pitch to meet the ball instead of allowing the ball to come to him.

In Shaw’s case too it helps that he is naturally bubbly and doesn’t get bogged down. The two just can’t afford to take the foot off the pedal. It’s not just a head-to-head competition. CSK’s Ruturaj Gaikwad is breathing down their neck and RCB’s Devdutt Padikkal is not far behind.

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Sunday, October 24, 2021