Since the time Shubman Gill has been with Gujarat Titans, his run as an opener in T20 cricket has been sparkling. Gill was an integral figure in the franchise's winning run in IPL 2022 last year, making 483 runs in 16 innings at an average of 34.5 and a strike rate of 132.33.
The right-handed opener entered IPL 2023 on the back of a sensational season for Team India, scoring centuries in all formats, including a blistering 126 not out against New Zealand in the T20I series-decider at Ahmedabad. In the tournament, Gill is currently the side's leading run-getter with 228 runs in five games, including two fifties.
Gary Kirsten, the side's batting coach and mentor, was left in awe of Gill's growth as a T20 opener in the last 12 months and stated that the next target for him is to see how the right-handed batter can have an impactful presence in matches.
"He (Gill) has just developed more into a class player. One could see that with his run of form with the Indian team across formats. We always knew he was going to be a class player. For me, the next level for Shubman is, what we have discussed, how he can take what he has got in his skills and how he can have a real impact on a game."
"He has done a great job for us at the top. Our ten overs scores have been really great in this year's IPL and he's been instrumental in doing most of that, which is quite exciting. He is on an upward curve of progress. He has good thinking and opinions about how he can have the success he is looking to have. It's great to see him do well," said Kirsten while responding to a question from IANS in a virtual press conference.
Apart from Gill, uncapped left-handed batter B. Sai Sudharsan has been another bright figure in the batting line-up for Kirsten, as seen from his impressive 62 not out in leading the chase of 163 against Delhi Capitals.
"The fact that we retained him (Sai Sudharsan) from last year is a testament to his massive potential as a player. This year we wanted to take the next step with him, which is to give him more game time. He has got massive potential as a young player."
"IPL can be a really intimidating environment for a young guy. But he loves to step up to the plate and take up a challenge. He has a great set of skills, but most importantly, he mentally manages himself really well through different games," he added.
In Gujarat's three victories in IPL 2023, apart from Gill and Sudharsan, Vijay Shankar and Mohit Sharma emerged as unlikely heroes to help the defending champions get two crucial points.
Shankar has played impactful knocks with the bat, including a whirlwind 63 off just 24 balls against Kolkata Knight Riders. Mohit, meanwhile, has been effective in the middle overs with the ball in six overs across two games, posting an economy rate of 4.16.
"Time might not be on their side, but the experience is. That certainly helps a lot in IPL, that will be the first thing. Certainly, Vijay battled (injuries) a little bit last season. He wanted to come back and prove that he was a player to be reckoned with. He got himself in the great physical condition and his training and work ethic at the nets has been second to none."
"Mohit is really for me an inspiration in many ways. He spent all of the last year's IPL essentially as a net bowler for us. It's remarkable for someone of his age to do that. He is an incredible professional and puts a lot of time into his game. It was great for him to have these last two games and he's done really well," added Kirsten.
Currently in third place in the points table, Gujarat's next game will be against Lucknow Super Giants at the Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Their last two games at home saw them lose to Kolkata and Rajasthan Royals, largely due to inconsistencies in bowling at the death overs, something which Kirsten admitted is a problem area to solve.
"In the last IPL, we defended four totals and we chased down six totals. This year we haven't defended a total yet, but it's early days in the tournament. I think there are a lot of moving parts in every team. Last year we had quite a settled bowling lineup."
"This time we've had one or two injuries, and guys that would probably almost become our bankers in crucial overs aren't necessarily ready to go for us in this tournament. Every team needs to be able to adapt to the different situations you are confronted with."
"For us, it's an opportunity just to have a look at that area in our game to potentially reset or to make sure that we have within our squad the right guys doing certain jobs that you need in bowling innings," he concluded.