Gifted Gill out to carve a niche and a permanent spot

India’s Shubman Gill at a training session ahead of their 2nd Test cricket match against Bangladesh

India’s Shubman Gill at a training session ahead of their 2nd Test cricket match against Bangladesh
| Photo Credit: AP

Ever since Shubman Gill was adjudged the player of the tournament at the 2018 Under-19 World Cup, he has been marked out for success. The raw talent was all too apparent and the adulation he received for his batting elegance didn’t seem out of place even in an era where the haziest of verses and whispers of tunes are glorified.

Over the next four years even as the critical press examined that talent with sterner eyes, Gill has come out with flying colours. His debut Test tour was to Australia in 2020-21, which he marked with a tempo-setting 91 in Brisbane against an attack comprising Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon as India chased down 328 for one of its greatest wins.

His maiden Test century in the first Test against Bangladesh on a slow turner at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chattogram last week was yet another reiteration of that abundant talent.

Consummate generalist

Gill’s greatest gift is that he cannot be pigeon-holed easily into any of the three existing cricket formats. He rarely thrashes or slogs but fashions a stroke more than a shot. It is tough to spot the disdain he may have for bowlers, for it is sugar-coated. He is majestic and tranquil, both at once. He is adaptable and can shift gears seamlessly, making him a consummate generalist in a world of specialists.

In the hundred against Bangladesh, he was 17 off 54 balls before finishing with 110 from 152. Back in May in the IPL playing for Gujarat Titans, he carried the bat against Lucknow Super Giants, scoring 63 from 49 balls on a deceptively two-paced pitch with uncomfortable bounce. No other batter crossed 30. The innings ensured a place for the Titans in the playoffs.

“It is all about pacing the innings and knowing when to attack,” Gill told the host broadcaster after the century in Chattogram. “Because the bowlers are going to get tired after a particular period of time. As a batter you have to know when is the right time to attack. For me it was all about how I can play according to the field, see where they are trying to bowl and score runs.”

It’s a pity that a batter of such high calibre doesn’t have an assured place in the side. All but one of his 23 Test innings have come in the top-two when a regular opener has been unavailable. Long fashioned as a middle-order bat, that space has shrunk too with the return to form of Cheteshwar Pujara.

But that hasn’t stopped yesteryear greats from gushing that Gill would be the next great Indian batter after Virat Kohli. That’s high praise and perhaps a tad too soon. But it is a fact that the shadows of Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Kohli are eternal on Indian cricket. It will be up to Gill to carve a niche.

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