Six games into the 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) season, Shubman Gill finds himself locked in a struggle to get out of the deep rut he's in. He has scored only 89 runs so far at an average of 14.83 and a strike rate of 120.27, and his fortunes have mirrored those of the Kolkata Knight Riders, who have only two wins in six games.
Gill was KKR's rock at the top of the order last year, where he finished as the team's leading run-scorer with 440 runs at an average of 33.84. But with a highest score of 33, he has been one of the biggest let-downs in IPL 2021 so far.
What has gone wrong for Shubman Gill this season? Here, we list three reasons for his struggles so far.
#3 Shubman Gill doesn't have a clearly defined role
In IPL 2020, Shubman Gill's role in the KKR playing XI was crystal clear. He was in charge of batting through the innings as an anchor, and managed to successfully carry out this task even as his opening partners were shuffled around endlessly.
But this year, Gill's role in the team isn't as straightforward. Opening alongside Nitish Rana, the 21-year-old seems to have been affected by the criticism he faced for his strike rate - 117.96 - in IPL 2020. With Rana taking up a significant amount of strike in the powerplay, Gill has either played a shot a ball or struggled to get going altogether - there hasn't been an in-between.
Rahul Tripathi and Eoin Morgan, batting at No. 3 and No. 4 respectively, are free-stroking players who haven't attempted to curb their natural game. Shubman Gill's contrasting approaches, and consequent failures, at the top have meant KKR don't have a dependable grinding batsman who gets them through the tough phases of an innings.
#2 Shubman Gill has played rash shots
With a calm head on his young shoulders, Shubman Gill is among the most resolute batsmen in the country at the moment. But he has played a number of uncharacteristically loose shots to get out in IPL 2021.
The first game against the Sunrisers Hyderabad saw him lose his stumps after attempting to take on the opposition's best bowler in Rashid Khan. The following encounter, against the Mumbai Indians, witnessed Gill holing out in the deep off Rahul Chahar despite having hit a four and a six in that very over.
The pattern repeated itself. He scored 21 off 9 balls against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, and fell to Kyle Jamieson after taking 16 runs off the first four balls of the over. Then came perhaps the worst shot of them all, as Shubman Gill found third-man with a casual cut to record a first-ball duck against the Chennai Super Kings.
Things didn't get better for Gill in KKR's fifth game of the season, as he ran himself out after laboring to 11 off 19 balls. And finally, yesterday's match against the Punjab Kings saw the Punjab-born opener trapped in front by Mohammed Shami for 9.
This dismissal was perhaps the only one where Gill didn't throw his wicket away. What caused it, then?
Check out the upcoming matches on the IPL 2021 schedule here.
#1 There are a few holes in Shubman Gill's technique
After a spectacular start to his Indian Test career in the series against Australia, Shubman Gill went through a rough patch at home versus England. In a series dominated by spinners from both sides, the classy right-hander found himself a victim of pace on a number of occasions.
The most common mode of dismissal was LBW, as James Anderson and Olly Stone zoned in on Gill's pads as he attempted to play across the line. Jofra Archer too dismissed him twice, with some well-directed short-pitched bowling.
A player who usually stays leg-side of the ball, Shubman Gill has shown the tendency to fall over on the flick. He's had to play around the front pad - an issue that plagued Virat Kohli during the early stages of his career - and his inconsistent trigger movements have left him highly susceptible to LBWs.
Shami exploited this weakness last night, delivering a perfect in-swinger that coaxed Gill into playing the flick - interestingly, a shot he successfully executed in the pacer's previous over.
KKR have moved to Ahmedabad for the next leg of IPL 2021, and they might be confronted with spin often in the batting powerplay. An assured player of spin, Shubman Gill might yet be able to turn his season around, and finish high atop the Orange Cap 2021 list as boldly claimed by KKR mentor David Hussey.