Gill’s assured debut series in Australia shows he can excel at the highest level
Mohali was bitingly cold on New Year’s Day in 2019. The sun made a belated, reluctant appearance at around lunch time at the PCA Stadium. And there was something else to warm the heart — the elegant batting of a tall teenager.
Shubman Gill was a delight, as he drove, pulled and cut on his way to an unbeaten 69 off 73 balls and guided Punjab to a 10-wicket victory over Kerala in a Ranji Trophy match. You knew you were watching a special talent in action: you felt, like almost everybody else who had seen him bat did, that he could well be playing for the country before long.
Ready for challenges
Shortly after the match, as he spoke, from outside Punjab’s dressing room, which is just a few minutes’ drive from his home, it was obvious that he had already begun to expect calls from the national selectors. “I am ready for international cricket,” he had told The Hindu. “I can take on big challenges now.”
He backed that early statement of intent these past few weeks in the epic Test series in Australia. Though he was named in India’s ODI and T20I squads for New Zealand within three weeks of that interview, during which he smiled throughout and finished his sentences with a polite ‘sir’, he had talked of his desire to play Tests.
Right from his maiden Test innings at Melbourne, Gill has shown he has the skills and the temperament to excel at the most demanding form of cricket, in the most demanding of conditions. From six innings, he made 259 runs at an average of 51.80 (he averages 66.55 in First Class cricket). The last of those innings, 91, laid the foundation for India’s incredible chase at Brisbane on Tuesday.
The scores in his previous innings in the series read 45, 35 not out, 50, 31 and seven. The numbers are excellent for a debutant opener in Australia against a lethal attack, but the manner in which he made those runs matters more. The 21-year-old looked completely assured as he took on Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon, who have more than 1,000 wickets among them.
He is blessed with the kind of timing great batsmen possess; it is as perfect as his head position. And he is mature beyond his years.
The legacy of the great Indian batting tradition seems to be safe in Gill’s hands.