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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 17 April 2024

Shubman Gill graduates to next level, adds grit and gumption to flair and flourish 

Gill had gone through 12 innings without a half-century and had been told in no uncertain terms by the national selectors that he would be dropped if he didn’t make a significant contribution in the second Test against England in Visakhapatnam

Indranil Majumdar Calcutta Published 02.03.24, 07:08 AM
Shubman Gill

Shubman Gill File image

Shubman Gill surprised new Gujarat Titans recruit Robin Minz’s father, Francis, at the Birsa Munda Airport in Ranchi at the end of the Test against England.

Francis is a retired Army personnel, who works as a security official at the airport, and Gill’s heart-warming and unpretentious gesture took him by surprise. Be it on
the field or off it, the Titans captain’s middle-class values have always been reflected in his approach, his stardom notwithstanding.

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A day earlier, his ma­tch-winning innings had fetched India the series against England but he didn’t miss an opportunity to meet one of his teammate’s dad on learning about it. Perhaps cricket had taught him to remain unruffled and never get swayed by success.

Gill knows how it feels when the chips are down. He had gone through 12 innings without a half-century and had been told in no uncertain terms by the national selectors that he would be dropped if he didn’t make a significant contribution in the second Test against England in Visakhapatnam.

He failed in the first inni­ngs and was staring at an uncertain future when he walked to the crease in the second es­say. India struggled on a dodgy wicket but Gill produced a career-saving century which ev­oked a “weird” feeling.

“I will sum it up in one line. My heartbeat playing the first ball and the last ball was the same throughout the innings,” Gill had said. “That’s how ne­rvous I was feeling even after scoring my hundred... It was quite weird for me. I have never experienced anything like this.”

At 24, Gill has shown the maturity and adaptability only veterans can dream of. He voluntarily moved out of the opening slot in the West Indies and opted to bat at No.3 to fit in Yashasvi Jaiswal as Rohit Sharma’s partner.

It took a while to adjust to the position, which greats like Rahul Dravid and Cheteshwar Pujara had made their own in the last two decades. Gill struggled but never gave up with an average of 36.28 in nine Tests.

If his century in Visakhapatnam provided India with the platform to launch a turnaround, his 91 in the second innings in Rajkot showed the power of the young guns — Jaiswal too falls in that group — in determining India’s future.

If Jaiswal has made the world sit up and take notice, Gill has excelled at his craft. He is never easy to contain and is one of the fluent strokemakers. Being an all-format player, he will always have the penchant to attack. But he showed the virtues of discipline, grit and patience during his unbeaten 52 in Ranchi which fetched a series victory.

The 192-run chase was tricky given the conditions but Gill stuck to his task. Ben Stokes tempted him with enough bait to unleash the big shots, inviting him to go over the top by keeping the fielders up in the circle.

But Gill refused to take any risks, not hitting a boundary for 120 balls. His unbroken 72-run stand with Dhruv Jurel was built on playing it safe on an unpredictable wicket.

He always seems to preserve his best for the second innings. His 91 at the fortress called Gabba during the Australia tour of 2020-21 set the tone for a successful 328-run chase.

He has learnt to be ready for the grind, take the blows and display the right temperament to survive in desperate situations. There were periods when he struggled to rotate the strike against the spinners in Ranchi, but he stuck to his task.

The stats reflect his abilities. While he has below-par averages of 20.72 and 31.23 when batting in the first and second innings of a Test, he performs admirably in the third and fourth innings of a match with averages of 43.9 and 44.14, respectively.

No wonder Dravid was ecstatic after the thrilling victory in Ranchi before locking Gill in a tight hug as he came out of the ground.

Don’t blame the head coach if for a fleeting moment his mind went back to his unbeaten 72 in Adelaide 2003.

Hours later, in his post on Instagram, Gill shared a motivational quote and attributed it to Dravid. “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?”

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