Shubman Gill arrived for the 2023 season of the Indian Premier League on the back of a staggering string of scores in international cricket.
With 1796 runs at 57.93 with seven hundreds across formats in international cricket since the start of 2022, Gill was expected to carry the burden for Gujarat Titans who is aiming to become only the third team in history to defend the IPL title.
Now after the league phase, the 23-year-old Gill finds himself in the second position in the top-scorers list with 680 runs from 14 matches at an astonishing average of 56.66.
A sublime player to watch, Gill relies on timing, not power.
Yet, his strike rate of 152.46 in this edition of the IPL has been mind-boggling.
Even more remarkable was the ease with which he mastered the chase against the Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday night, knocking the RCB and his childhood hero, Virat Kohli, out of the competition.
Gill's second straight hundred (104 not out off 52 balls, 5 fours, 8 sixes) in the tournament eclipsed Kohli's second straight ton (101 not out off 61 balls, 13 fours, 1 six) to silence the Bangalore crowd.
Kohli was majestic for the RCB as he held the innings together when wickets kept falling at the other end before playing a flurry of gorgeous shots at the back end of the innings.
If not for Kohli's brilliance against the best bowling attack of the tournament, the margin of defeat for the RCB would have been far biggerin a game where defeat was simply not an option.
But a target of 198 on a true surface was never going to challenge a batsman as talented as Gill.
The opener never looked hassled as he knew which bowlers to target and when to shift gears effortlessly.
His innings perhaps reminded a lot of cricket fans of a younger Kohli when the Indian batting superstar was producing one classic after another in successful chases for his team, especially in international cricket.
Perhaps, the baton has been passed to Gill, easily the most gifted of all young Indian batsmen.
Before the start of this IPL season, legendary Indian batsman Dilip Vengsarkar, during an interview with the Khaleej Times, revealed how Gill could be a decisive player for the Titans.
"The format is such that for an opening batsman like him, the first six overs are very important," Vengsarkar had told the Khaleej Times on the eve of the opening IPL clash between Gujarat Titans and Chennai Super Kings.
"You play a lot of shots where the margin of error is very small. If he clicks in the first six overs, he can play those long innings regularly in this IPL."
Vengsarkar, the former chairman of selectors, had also felt that a big IPL season would boost Gill's confidence in the World Cup year.
The prospect of seeing a red-hot Gill coming out to open with skipper Rohit Sharma for India in the World Cup later this year with Kohli at number three is too alluring for Indians fans.
But Gill will not be looking too far ahead.
His focus now is on playing another special knock for Gujarat Titans against the Chennai Super Kings in Qualifier 1 on Tuesday.
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