What do you watch when you watch a batter? The bat swing? Hands and eyes? The transfer of body weight? The execution of the shot? The reaction of the batter after?
If Shakib Al Hasan appeared to bat on a pitch different from the one the others did in the first innings, Gill took it to another level – or pitch, if you will – in the second.
While the other batters seemed to struggle against the turn on the slowish track, Gill was at home.
When Suryakumar Yadav walked out at 94 for 4, Gill was on 57. He had hit six four and one six at that point, the six over deep midwicket off Mahedi Hasan had brought up his half-century. This was after watching KL Rahul fall attempting a similar shot in the offspinner’s previous over.
Against Mustafizur Rahman, Gill took a forward step and played a cover drive. And then off a fullish ball angling away, he went back and punched through backward point when one, perhaps, expected another front-foot drive. Against the spinners, he often went deep in the crease to cut the shortish or length balls and forced them to pitch it up. When they did, he stretched out to get to the ball and caressed it along the carpet.
You could choose your music, and Gill’s feet would have been in sync.
“On slow wickets, there are a lot of dot balls. Our chat as a batting group is to reduce dot balls and rotate strike,” Gill said later in the press conference, his 121 in 133 balls having gone in vain. “The track was slow and was taking turn, so taking singles is not easy, especially for new batters. The talk was about playing it late and close to the body.
“On slow wickets, more runs are scored square of the wicket and less down the ground. So, the aim was to do that.”
The feet played along.
He slammed Mehidy Hasan Miraz for two sixes in an over before completing his century. The trademark roar-and-bow celebration followed but the job was far from done. It never got done. With the asking rate climbing to over nine for the final seven overs, Gill perished playing one shot too many. He slog-swept Mahedi over cow corner before holing out to long-off the next ball.
“There’s so much adrenaline when you are batting, sometimes you miscalculate,” Gill said. “That was a miscalculation on my side. When you got out, you saw there was a lot of time left. If I had batted a bit normally or not that aggressively, we should have been able to get over the line. Fortunately, this was not the final for us. These are the kind of learnings that as a batsman you want to take and move forward.”
For the second game in a row, India’s batters struggled against spin. Against Sri Lanka two nights ago, India found themselves in a web spun by Dunith Wellalage’s left-arm spin.
Gill put it down as an “area we are looking to improve on”.
“We had a camp in Bangalore before coming here and practised on similar surfaces,” he said. “The World Cup is such a long tournament, and as we go deep into the tournament, the wickets will get slower. It is not easy for batsmen coming in to rotate strike and minimise dot balls. That’s what as a batting unit and bowling group we are looking to overcome.”
You’d say Gill, more than any other India batter, has overcome it already – 1025 runs from 17 innings this year, for an average of 68.33 and, not to forget, four centuries including a double, would suggest that.