Shubman Gill ready to wait for his moment
When Shubman Gill walks in to bat, he is a man in command of the 22 yards. When it comes to events, the 20-year-old is still learning the tricks of the trade. Disorder with managers and client-heads looking for the best PR-pitch, journalists waiting for their flash interviews; it’s just another chaotic brand-promotions day for India’s new star-in-the-making. Gill is soaking it all in.
It’s been a year-and-a-half since the stylish right-hander first got a taste of people jostling for his time; Gill had returned as a winning member of India’s U-19 World Cup team. He has since set the domestic scene afire. The next batch of India’s U-19 cricketers will soon embark for another World Cup campaign.
“I met some of them,” Gill says. “I am very sure, this time they too will win the World Cup.”
Unlike Gill, for most of his teammates, the transition from U19 World Cup winners to senior level cricket has not been smooth.
Prithvi Shaw, who captained that U19 team, is currently serving an anti-doping violation suspension after touching the high of earning an India cap. Speedsters Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Ishan Porel and Shivam Mavi, who created waves by clocking high speeds, are either in rehab after injury or trying to rediscover their rhythm. Manjot Kalra, who outshone Gill and Shaw in the U-19 Cup final, can’t find a spot in his state team or IPL team.
“Mentally, the preparations change because at the U-19 level, you will not end up facing that many good deliveries as compared to the top level,” Gill says. “So you need to stay more focused. You have to keep reminding yourself that the ease with which you would score runs in U-19 cricket, it will not happen at this level. Once you have accepted that in your mind, it then becomes important to pace your innings.”
Gill’s breakthrough innings in winning this mental war came against Mumbai Indians in this year’s IPL. After a mediocre season, batting in the middle and lower-middle order, Gill struck a quality 45-ball 76 batting as an opener. Kevin Pietersen called Gill India’s next superstar, and Virat Kohli later said, “I wasn’t even 10 per cent of that when I was 19”.
“That innings was a real confidence booster. It was very important for me because I had got an opportunity to open and it was a must-win match for the team,” Gill says.
In that particular innings, Gill outscored Andre Russell, who had been destroying bowling attacks during the tournament. On other occasions, when Russell got going, Gill did well to sit back and learn the nuances.
Like Kohli, Gill too has a bottom-handed grip but he says he doesn’t even remember how the grip came along.
“When I started playing I didn’t think of what grip I would use,” he says. “We have a natural grip and you start playing shots. My father was my coach and he never told me that the grip should be this way or that but that it should not be completely weird. It should be basic, somewhat raw and natural.”
Gill will soon assemble in Indore with the Indian Test team against Bangladesh, still awaiting his Test debut. But in his young India career so far, Gill has experienced the agony of a disappointing start. Two ODIs against New Zealand this year where he didn’t get to double figures meant he missed the flight to the World Cup in England. Gill says he coped with it well.
“I know that I can’t expect from myself that I will get a hundred every time I go out. I will get runs and will get to settle down. Obviously things take time. But it was a very good experience for me. We had won the series. And the wickets were tough to bat on. So I learnt to adapt in those conditions and absorb pressure,” he says.
“Just to be with this Test team, the way India has been playing in the World Test Championships and across all formats, to be a part of this side is a big thing for me,” he adds.