The Rise of Shubman Gill

It seems like just yesterday a classy 18-year-old right-handed batsman (batsboy) upstaged captain and star Prithvi Shaw at the 2018 ICC U-19 World Cup in New Zealand. The young Indian team dominated the tournament the way Australia dominated cricket for a decade – they were far and away the best side, bullying their way to the World Cup title. While Shaw, on whom everyone’s eyes have been since his prodigious school-cricket days, made his international Test debut as an opener within 8 months of the title, fellow cricket player Gill continued to set senior Ranji cricket ablaze in his debut season for Punjab. In no way has he been “fast-tracked” without first-class cricket; Gill has earned a call-up early because he has made it impossible for the selectors to ignore his obvious talent in just 9 games.

Today, Shubman Gill, all of 19, is part of the senior Indian limited-overs squad traveling to New Zealand in less than a week. If all goes well, he will make his international ODI debut before an injured Shaw, less than a year after both the batsmen arrested imaginations in IPL 2018. Gill didn’t get as many opportunities, batting as low as 6 in an all-around team, but he smartly finished a few innings against teams like CSK, which prompted veterans such as Dinesh Karthik to mark him out as a future superstar.

Here are a few tidbits about India’s latest batting star, a boy who could well seal his place for the World Cup in England if he impresses in New Zealand. After Shaw and Pant, it’s now Gill’s turn:

– Gill has scored 1089 runs in first-class cricket for Punjab in his debut season. This includes 728 Ranji Trophy runs in 5 matches.

– His highest score is 268 against Tamil Nadu last month. But his most impressive innings came a week later against Hyderabad when he scored 148 off 154 balls to almost help Punjab chase down 338 off 57 overs on the final day. It ended in a draw.

– Gill was the Man of the Series at the U-19 World Cup, scoring 418 runs at a stunning average of 104. His century in the semi-final against Pakistan was widely considered the finest innings of the tournament.

– Gill was bought for INR 1.8 crore by KKR for IPL 2018, where he batted in the middle order in a star-studded lineup. His 57* against eventual champions CSK, his first IPL fifty, established him as a rising star.

– Gill was born in September 1999, only a few months after India crashed out of the ICC World Cup the last time it was held in England. Rahul Dravid was the top scorer of that World Cup, a man who would incidentally coach Gill during his stint with the U-19 and “A” side almost two decades later.

– Shubman Gill’s favorite position is in the top 3, but he might be required to bat at 4 (in place of Ambati Rayadu) if chosen in the Indian ODI team in New Zealand. Unless, of course, one of Rohit Sharma or Shikhar Dhawan gets injured.

– Gill’s idol is Virat Kohli, a man who will now be his captain over the next month.

– Gill’s favorite international performance in recent times was Cheteshwar Pujara’s mammoth 1258-ball stay at the crease over the 4 Test matches of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Not the 521 runs he scored, the “time” he played, which Gill, who is an otherwise attacking batsman, wants to emulate in the longest form of the game.

Rahul Desai :