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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

Precocious Shubman Gill tipped to be man for all seasons

In two seasons with KKR, Gill has been the player they trusted to stay till the end, open when needed or bat at No. 3.

cricket Updated: Sep 13, 2019 09:46 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
File photo of Shubman Gill.
File photo of Shubman Gill.(Anil Dayal/Hindustan Times)

Joe Denly was gone first ball and Robin Uthappa barely survived the next five as Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) began against Delhi Capitals by giving Ishant Sharma a wicket-maiden. Opening for the first time in IPL 2019, Shubman Gill reacted by beginning the next over with a flicked four off Chris Morris.

Gill made 65 that night but without giving the white ball a mighty thwack. That’s not his style; he would rather coax it past backward point, caress to the third man fence. But when Ishant tried some chin music, Gill pulled for four.

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It would be one of the several statements of intent Gill, who turned 20 on September 8, would make in the last IPL. His 76 against Mumbai Indians came from shots mostly in front of the wicket; runs being collected with the kind of calm antithetical to everything T20.

In two seasons with KKR, Gill has been the player they trusted to stay till the end, open when needed or bat at No. 3. Yo-yoing in the batting order isn’t easy, Gill admitted, adding you improve only when you deal with such challenges. “You should know how to pace your innings both when there are less overs and more overs,” he had said.

All these traits would have weighed in for Gill to have got a Test squad call-up on Thursday.

“I was not even 10% of that when I was 19,” Virat Kohli has been quoted as saying about Gill. Being in the Test squad completes the circle for Gill, who in April 2018 was winning the under-19 World Cup.

Before the IPL, where he won the emerging player’s award, Gill scored 728 runs in five games with a highest of 268 in the Ranji season. Ninety-one of them came against Bengal last January but what Gill said at stumps on Day Two stood out as much as his innings during which he scored briskly without ever looking to be in a hurry.

With that quiet, understated confidence he brings to his batting, Gill said it was possible he would be playing for India soon. (Days later he got called up for the one-dayers in New Zealand). But he also said for Tests, he would need to recognise when the bowler is doing well and wait out the spell even if he is batting well then. That is why Gill said he marvelled at how Cheteshwar Pujara played 1200 balls on the last tour of Australia.

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It is this precocity—in thought and with the bat—that had former KKR coach Jacques Kallis, while talking about the need to have different technique for different formats, picking Gill as a man for all seasons.

“Technically he is very sound. I think he will do magnificently well in Test cricket,” Kallis had said, days before promoting Gill against Delhi Capitals.

First Published: Sep 13, 2019 09:00 IST