Considered the next big thing in Indian cricket, Shubman Gill has earned a spot in the national squad sooner than he expected. He says there can’t be a better place to start his international career than New Zealand, where he was named player of U-19 World Cup, 12 months ago.

Gill will replace KL Rahul in the Indian squad for the New Zealand tour (comprising five ODIs and three T20Is) that begins on January 23.

The last year witnessed the remarkable rise of the 19-year-old opener. The Mohali-based cricketer followed his U-19 captain Prithvi Shaw to the Indian team, albeit in the shorter formats, after a dream 2018. He bagged a lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) contract following a stellar World Cup and has made 790 runs in 10 innings at 98.75 in Punjab’s latest Ranji Trophy campaign.

He was also part of the India A side, coached by Rahul Dravid, that toured New Zealand last month.

“It is a big advantage (to be picked for the New Zealand tour). I played well there in the U-19 World Cup and now again I have got the opportunity,” Gill said on Sunday.

“As I have done well there, I can say that there isn’t much adjustment needed in the technique. If I get an opportunity, I will just need to handle the pressure that comes with playing for India. Mentally, it will be different for sure but I am ready.”

“It was late in the night [when I got the news about my selection]. My heart started beating faster. The messages started pouring in and I rushed to tell my father. It was a special moment,” said Gill.

Senior Punjab teammate Yuvraj Singh and his Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) captain Dinesh Karthik, who were among the first few to congratulate Gill, had said it was only a matter of time before he reaches the biggest stage.

“The call was unexpected but I understand the circumstances in which I have been picked. I have a pretty set target in mind. I have done well at all the levels I have played in so far and that has given me the belief that I can also excel in international cricket,” said Gill, who is known to pace his innings brilliantly.

“At this time, last year, we went for the World Cup and now I have got an India call-up. Yes, last one year has been great but I would see this as a result of work put in by me ever since I started playing the game.”

Gill said the his maiden IPL stint with KKR and playing Ranji Trophy helped him last year.

“Definitely, I have gained maximum exposure from IPL and Ranji Trophy experience has also helped immensely. Though, it all started with the win in the U-19 World Cup where we experienced the media pressure for the first time.

“The atmosphere that is created during the U-19 World Cup does help you at higher levels,” added Gill.