Delhi Capitals’ win over Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League on Thursday could be narrowed down to the stark contrast in the two teams’ approach with the bat in the Powerplay.
While Kolkata scored 13 runs in the sixth over and were still only 45/1 at the end of the Powerplay, Delhi got just a single in their sixth over and yet had 67 runs on the board.
The position Kolkata and Delhi found themselves in at the end of their respective Powerplays was mostly because of how Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw – two young openers with immense potential – went about their business.
Shaw hit a staggering six consecutive fours in the first over of the innings by Shivam Mavi and simply didn’t look back, finishing with a match-winning 82 off 41.
The 21-year-old right-hander is at the top of his game at the moment and the confidence he’s carrying is reflective in every shot he plays. He started the season with an impressive 72 against Chennai Super Kings and has gone on to amass 269 runs in seven innings.
Against KKR, Shaw was severe on both pace and spin and hit 11 fours and three sixes in his sparkling knock. As is so often the case with his batting, the thing that stood out was the surety with which he went for his shots. Delhi were chasing a below-par total on a batting-friendly pitch, and the right-hander had no hesitation whatsoever in searching for boundaries.
Gill, on the other hand, is going through his leanest patch at the highest level in his young career. After hitting a half-century in the first Test against England back in February, the 21-year-old has endured a forgettable run with the bat. He scored 40 runs in total in his last five innings of the England Test series, which included two ducks, and has got 132 runs in seven outings, at a strike-rate of 117.85, so far in IPL 2021.
With 33 being his highest score this season heading into the clash with Delhi, Gill must’ve surely felt the weight of expectations. He started confidently and even went on to score 43 off 38 but as his strike-rate suggests, his stay at the crease was far from free-flowing. The 38 balls he faced included nine dots and 22 singles.
You could see it on his face and in his body language – Gill was desperate to break the shackles. But the thing that was missing in his batting on Thursday was courage. Even as he stepped out of the crease a number of times, the shots he offered were tame and bereft of real intent.
And when it comes to Shaw and Gill, two bright young talents who announced their arrival together at the 2018 Under-19 World Cup, this is the key differentiator at the moment: courage, or the lack thereof.
Back in December 2020, it was Gill who took Shaw’s place in India’s Test team in Australia. Shaw was dropped after getting 0 and 4 in the first match of the series and his confidence was at an all-time low. But since then, he has returned to form in some style. After a historic performance in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, he has gone on from strength to strength.
Shaw admitted that he worked hard on his game but in all the adjustments he made, the best thing he did was to not tinker with his style of play. His strength is to go hard at the ball and now that he’s improved his shot selection, he has the confidence to go after the best in the world.
Gill, however, has failed to kick on since the tour of Australia. He played a key role for India in that epic series win Down Under, setting the tone at the top of the order with some stunning strokeplay against the likes of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.
But he has looked a shadow of that player in IPL 2021. There have been sparks of brilliance, like when he crunched one from Ishant Sharma straight back for four and swept Axar Patel confidently for a huge six, but for the most part, he has played well within himself.
The immense talent he possesses is undeniable but unlike Shaw, Gill has lacked the courage to go for his shots. During the powerplay in a T20, when the ball is hard and the field restrictions are in place, an opener must look for boundaries and lay a strong foundation. Gill is a key figure at the top of the order for KKR, but his meek approach is hurting his team.
Here’s what a disappointed KKR coach Brendon McCullum said after the defeat against DC:
“What we saw from Shaw was the perfect template of how we want to play. You’re not always going to be able to hit every ball for four or six, but you can have the intent to do so, particularly when you’re given a free licence. It’s very difficult if you don’t play shots to score runs, and unfortunately tonight we didn’t play enough shots... It’s incredibly disappointing because I’ve asked time and time again for us to be more aggressive and more expressive and take the game on, and we continue to not do it.”
On a couple of occasions this season, Shikhar Dhawan, the highest run-scorer in the tournament at the moment, has explained the importance of taking risks as a batter. Shaw follows the same template and it’s about time Gill follows it too.
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