India's Shubman Gill bats during play on the final day of the fourth cricket test between India and Australia at the Gabba, Brisbane, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)(AP)
India's Shubman Gill bats during play on the final day of the fourth cricket test between India and Australia at the Gabba, Brisbane, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)(AP)

Rishabh Pant is my hero, go-to person

  • It was a quiet welcome as the youngster returned home to Mohali with the country still celebrating the 2-1 comeback victory.
UPDATED ON JAN 24, 2021 12:59 PM IST

In a sensational Test series win in Australia that was so much about skill and resilience of the fresh faces, it was also about delivering on promise for 21-year-old Shubman Gill. Spoken of as a special talent since India’s 2018 U-19 World Cup win in New Zealand, his debut came in Melbourne with the team reeling from the collapse in Adelaide for 36.

The opener’s assuredness and stroke-play against the world’s best bowling attack confirmed his talent and his 91 off 146 balls, and a 114-run stand with Cheteshwar Pujara over 39.4 overs, on the final day set up the Brisbane Test triumph. Gill got a start in five of six innings, and hit two fifties. He faced 427 balls—only Pujara (928) and Ajinkya Rahane (562) played more—and scored 259 runs in three Tests, close to Rishabh Pant (274), Pujara (271) and Rahane (268).

It was a quiet welcome as the youngster returned home to Mohali with the country still celebrating the 2-1 comeback victory.His family members made sure he first had sound sleep before they started hearing his stories about the historic tour, over home-cooked dal chawal.

In this exclusive chat, Gill takes a trip through the momentous tour.

Excerpts

You have had a brilliant start to your Test career. How was it being in this India team which made history beating Australia again at home?

It is unbelievable how India played in Australia throughout the tour. The way the team made a comeback in the series and sealed it was superb. I am proud to have been part of the team which created history in Australia. The Test series had its twists and turns and there I was making my debut. I told myself ‘welcome to Test cricket’. The victory lap we took out in the end at the Gabba will always be special and stay in my heart.

How nervous were you before your debut as it came after the defeat in Adelaide and the 36?

I saw a headline in a local newspaper which said ‘The Great Adelaide Collapse’. It was disheartening. I was told by the team management that I would be playing in the Boxing Day Test, and I didn’t want my debut game to have that sort of result. So mentally I prepared for the challenge. I did not take any pressure and just played my natural game to start with. After some 10 balls I hit Pat Cummins for a boundary and then it really sunk in that I was playing Test cricket. As I went on playing, I grew in confidence.

Did the Indian team believe it could win in Brisbane after R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja and Hanuma Vihari were injured?

The team was aiming for a win. The way Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur played in the first innings was outstanding. We got a good start in the second innings. The way Cheteshwar Pujara paaji took the blows was so inspiring. Thereafter, Rishabh Pant played an amazing brand of cricket. We all were egging him on from the dressing room. He is my hero and also my go-to person in the team. Hats off to him for his stunning 89—despite an injury (97 at the SCG braving a painful elbow), he made batting look easy.

How disappointing was it to miss out on a century in Brisbane? Were you nervous in the 90s?

I was playing well and striking the ball nicely. When I entered the 90s, I got a bit nervous and played a bad shot (edged Nathan Lyon to slip). I was disappointed to get out like that. Scoring a century for my team would have been the icing on the cake for me, after the win.

How did you and the team handle the Australian team’s sledging and the crowd abusing Mohammed Siraj? Did you face any sledging?

Nathan Lyon tried to intimidate me, but I kept my cool, remained calm. I wanted my bat to do the talking. The team never got intimidated by the sledging. Siraj paaji is a great guy. He performed so well, didn’t get affected by any such incident while bowling. He gave his best on the field despite his father’s demise and the spectators making remarks at him.

How comfortable were you opening on Australian wickets? How was it batting with Rohit Sharma?

I have had the chance to bat in New Zealand as well as Australia wickets before on India A tours. So it was not that I was playing there for the first time. I played in the warm-up games too. Rohit paaji is so easy going. We would just play our shots and plan the game session by session. I enjoyed batting with him. I felt I could excel at the top a lot because of him. He would encourage and keep it simple. The best takeaway from the Australia tour is the confidence I have picked.

Your idol Virat Kohli was not there when you made your debut.

I missed him. It would have been great to have him around on my debut. He was happy and congratulated me from India. I hope to play a lot of cricket alongside him, and learn a lot from him. I am excited to be in Chennai for the Test series against England. It would be wonderful to prepare for another tough series and have Virat paaji back.

You trained at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) ground under Yuvraj Singh before IPL. He also made you talk to Sachin Tendulkar during the training.

I trained hard under Yuvi paaji. He put in a great effort. I would bat against short-pitched bowling at over 150 (kph). PCA secretary Puneet Bali made sure that despite Covid limitations, I got the best facilities to train. Yuvi paaji made me video call Tendulkar sir. He told me to work a bit on my back lift. Inputs from legends like Yuvi paaji and Sachin sir helped me raise my game.

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