Is Shubman Gill India’s cricketer’s next big thing? – BBC News

  • By Suresh Menon
  • Sports writer

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Shubman Gill has scored back-to-back centuries in the IPL

Fans are big on spotting game-changing moments in sports.

In his last Test innings a little over a decade ago, when Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed for the last time, came Virat Kohli. Kohli started with a first ball on the boundary, and whispers gathered volume at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai that the future is here, Tendulkar’s successor is ready and fit, the Kohli era has just begun.

Something similar happened last week when Shubman Gill’s second consecutive IPL century for Gujarat Titans surpassed Kohli’s second consecutive century for Royal Challengers Bangalore. The Chinnaswamy Stadium crowd, disappointed by the home side’s defeat, nevertheless said with a knowing nod: the baton is passed, the future is ready, long live the king.

For so long Gill was seen as Kohli’s natural successor that it was easy to hang a label. Transitions are usually only recognized in hindsight, but here was a chance to see it happen before your eyes. Neither fans nor critics could resist the temptation. Gill will turn 24 in a few days and is two years younger than Kohli was during the previous baton. In sports, we like the inevitable as well as surprises.

Some players are chosen for big things at a very young age. When Gill was 15, he made 351 in an under-16 match. for Punjab in the Vijay Merchant (U16) tournament, started with a double century.

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Gill celebrates after scoring a century to win the IPL match against RCB last week

When he was named India’s under-19 vice-captain for the 2018 World Cup, it came as no surprise. He had already made his Ranji Trophy [India’s main domestic tournament] debut for Punjab. And when he hit an unbeaten 102 against Pakistan in the semi-final, everything seemed to be going well. He was named player of the tournament.

Gill is enjoying an incredible 2023, becoming the youngest double-centurion in one-day internationals, India’s highest centurion in T20 internationals and now scoring back-to-back centuries in the IPL (His team, Gujarat Titans, were beaten by Chennai Super Kings on Tuesday. They will have another chance at the final when they play a qualifier later this week).

India likes its best batsmen to be players of all formats. It is an old prejudice that T20 has not been able to erase. At 20, Gill took on Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazelwood and Nathan Lyon in a run chase that saw him make 91 to lead India to a Test victory in Brisbane.

His natural sense of timing, instinctive understanding of where players are on the pitch and ability to play between two of them are hallmarks of a very special player. With the confidence that comes from scoring big in all formats, he knows he belongs. And it should, for another decade and more, as the Indian team goes through the inevitable transition.

There may be something of the young Dilip Vengsarkar in his batting, but Gill is not your typical Indian batsman, all fruit and disorder. Like the greats of the past, it’s batter, pulling on the leg and stroking down in unexpected ways.

Everything looks effortless because power is married to aesthetics and there is no extra note in the composition. For an exceptionally low-handed player who likes to play the pull, he can drive like the best on both sides of the wicket. And even the pull comes with a wide range. The ball can end up anywhere from right square leg to left mid on.

image source, Getty Images

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Gill batting against Australia in a Test match in Ahmedabad in March

Above all, there is a calmness and control about Gill’s batting that communicates to those watching, including the bowler, who is often as much spectator as the man in the stands. You can only pray for the bowlers when you realize that he is yet to peak as a batsman and he will get even stronger.

If missing games for India – through injury or lack of runs – has taught him one thing it is to bat as much as possible and productively. In any case, this is something he likes.

White ball cricket has taught Gill to be innovative and score at a gallop. In 15 Tests he averages just under 35, which for a batter of his gifts is much lower. Next month’s World Test Championship final in England could be the platform that catapults him towards the statistical towers of a Tendulkar or Kohli. He owes it both to himself and to a billion fans who like to draw a straight line from one batsman of one generation to the next.

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