As the crowd’s roar reverberated just outside the entrance of the Holkar Cricket Stadium when Shubman Gill and Ruturaj Gaikwad came out to bat in the 2nd ODI between India and Australia, a diligent security personnel, inquired whether Virat Kohli was playing this game. No – was the answer and when told Gill and Gaikwad were in the middle, fast came the follow-up – “Prince?”
This simple exchange encapsulates the anticipation and excitement surrounding the young cricketer. Gill has often been hailed as the prince of the Indian team, the next heir to Kohli’s throne. And befitting a Prince, in the former princely state, Gill showed why he is rated so highly.
Not only did the 24-year-old score the most runs in ODI cricket in the year 2023, but Gill might just be the most valuable player for India in the World Cup. Before smashing his 6th ODI century (104 off 7) today, Gill had clobbered 1172 runs in 20 innings this year.
Gill looked in surreal touch as he treated the enthusiastic crowd at the Holkar to plenty of big hits. Given the side boundaries were just shy of the 65m mark, plenty of sixes from Gill and other Indian batters landed in the stands, stand-in captain KL Rahul even sent one over the roof, pleasing the crowd.
The Fazilka-born cricketer took his time to get going, in the first 19 balls he scored just 9 runs, but then he didn’t look back once he got going by hammering 41 runs in the next 18 balls to bring up his fifty with a maximum in 37 balls, just like he did in Mohali.
After Gaikwad’s (8) early departure, Iyer and Gill joined hands to take the Australian bowlers to the cleaners. One of the sixes from Gill against Adam Zampa even left Shreyas Iyer impressed at the non-striker’s end.
Continuing his dream run in ODIs with 10 half-centuries and six centuries in 35 innings, Gill treated the jam-packed crowd to yet another majestic innings. The ability to pierce the field with beautifully sweetly-timed shots and then to follow it up by rotating the strike to put pressure on opposition bowlers showed just why he is a special player.
When Gill last played in Indore, he smashed 112 runs against New Zealand in 78 balls with a strike rate of 143.59, his latest effort came at a strike rate of 107 but it was his early intent that would please coach Rahul Dravid.
The Indian players smashed seven sixes in the first 20 overs in the second ODI, the last time they smashed more than 7 sixes in the first 120 balls was also in Indore against New Zealand earlier this year.
Even though Australian stand-in captain Steven Smith remained proactive in the field, and held constant discussions with his bowlers, particularly Josh Hazlewood, it did little to foil the Indian batters.
It was a day of milestones for Gill, he surpassed Hashim Amla’s tally of most runs in ODI cricket (1,844) after 35 innings, became the fastest Indian to score six ODI tons and is breathing down Babar Azam’s neck for the number 1 ODI ranking crown. During his knock, he also became the first batter to score more than 1900 runs in 35 innings
The opener did slow down slightly before completing his century in 92 balls, a seventh ton this year across all formats, and he became the fourth Indian player to hit a ton in September, following up his century against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup.
The crowd went berserk as soon as the Prince pulled off his signature celebration, with a Mexican wave flowing across the venue.
Gill reached a total of 104 and even though he was dismissed by Cameron Green, he walked back to the dugout to a standing ovation from the fans as Rahul ran across the 22-yards to give his compatriot a pat on his back.
The wicket was pretty flat, both KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan opened their innings with sixes, but the latest knock from Gill proves that even though both Rohit Sharma and Kohli have been in good touch ahead of the World Cup, Gill might just be India’s Mr. consistent as he continued his purple patch in 2023.
7 centuries in 9 months this year including a double hundred speak volumes that Shubman Gill has class written all over him and he might just be the key piece to India’s World Cup credentials.
India eventually finished with their highest team total against Australia in ODIs (399/5) courtesy of Iyer’s 105, KL Rahul’s 52 and Suryakumar Yadav’s blistering 72*. But it was the Prince who stole the show.