Shubman Gill’s two half centuries in the ongoing IPL season have come when he has come on to open the innings. Playing in his preferred batting slot for a third time in the season, he scored 76 runs and played a key starting role in Kolkata Knight Riders’ mammoth 232/2 total against Mumbai Indians on Sunday (April 28).
He was dismissed with KKR on 157 after 15 overs. From then on, Andre Russell, also promoted higher up the order, took the game away from MI with a thundering 80 run knock.
The Punjab opener, who batted at No. 3 in his debut series for India vs New Zealand in ODIs earlier this year, played in various positions, including at No. 7, in a couple of matches.
“Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine have been doing well (as openers). Narine was giving good starts. So I was happy to happy to get a chance and capitalise on that,” Gill said at the post-match news conference following his team’s 34-run win.
“It’s one of the best knocks in this IPL, especially considering the situation that we had lost six matches in a row. We do all kinds of practice in various match-conditions. It was all about preparing the mindset and executing on the field.”
Gill credited the domestic cricket structure in the country for preparing youngsters for big lucrative tournaments such as the IPL.
“We play so many matches at different levels. You start to gain confidence by doing well. So when you’re in a big league like IPL, you know you don’t have to prove anyone. I’ve already proved myself there. It’s all about continuing that.”
Gill, considered to be a star of the future for the national team, has not had the start he would have liked with 16 runs from two ODIs. When asked if he reckons IPL will take him towards good form internationally, Gill said: “I don’t think so far ahead. It’s about doing well and capitalise on whatever opportunities I get.”
Gill hit six boundaries and four sixes in his knock while partnering with Chris Lynn for 96 runs with the latter scoring 54 runs. Following Lynn’s exit, Gill took over even with Russell alongside him.
“We had a good opening partnership maybe he was sent in to capitalise on that. I was set when Russell came in to bat. They were employing spinners after Lynn got out. So we decided that I take on the spinners. Then he will take chances after getting set. Setting up a good partnership was our priority at that stage,” he said.
KKR were keen on breaking their six match losing streak and went all-attack with Robin Uthappa an added batsman.
“It was about going all aggressive as we had back-up options. The support was important. We had lost six matches in a row so it was about returning to winning ways and carry on that run till the final,” Gill said, hoping that they would make the playoffs.
No partner for Hardik Pandya made things harder for us: Quinton de Kock
Hardik Pandya’s blitz for MI, despite being four down and chasing a massive 233 run total, was not enough. Opener Quinton de Kock rued the lack of support for Pandya, whose incredible power-hitting kept KKR on tenterhooks till the final ball of the 18th over.
Hardik’s 91 from 34 balls kept MI in the hunt till his dismissal swung the game in favour of KKR at the Eden Gardens.
“We would have loved a couple of less wickets when Kieron (Pollard) and Hardik walked in. But, unfortunately, it didn’t happen today so there’s the collapse and no one batting with Hardik made it harder for us,” the South African said at the post-match news conference Sunday.
De Kock had a terrible time with a duck after top-edging Sunil Narine in the second over.
“When you have to score of 233, you need to play one or two shots anyway. You have to try against any bowler who comes on and take a chance to get things going.
“So if I hit that ball for four or six, you probably would have said ‘great shot’ but unfortunately I got out so didn’t look,” he said about his slog-sweep.
With 232 from KKR and 198 from MI, the balance has well and truly swung the batsmen way with little for bowlers. De Kock said it’s more to do with the batting-friendly sub-continent wickets.
“In India they have generally very small fields, while wicket is batting friendly. Australia have bigger ground, while there’s a bit in the wicket for South Africa. Here it is more batting friendly anyway. Bowlers are always under pressure.”
De Kock further said he hated every minute of keeping to Russell who slammed a 40-ball 80 not out.
“I’m not joking, I hated every minute of it. You can’t fault him. He took his time, and then did what he does the best. You just have to appreciate what is done. Not just this game but in the IPL. Hope he doesn’t do it again against us,” he said.