In a world where everything is stupendous or outstanding or amazing, Shubman Gill stands out for his distinct lack of chatter. He has, in many ways, let his bat do the talking for him.
In July this year, chief selector MSK Prasad revealed how the Indian selectors are looking at the youngster for all three formats.
“With regards to Shubman Gill, we look at him as an opener as well as middle-order batsman,” Prasad had said. “We are looking at him as back-up for both the slots. As he keeps playing more and more, he will get his opportunities, because he is a player for all three formats.”
It was a big statement to make especially when one considers how difficult it has been for batsmen all over the world to bridge the gap between formats. But the calm with which Gill seems to approach his game and life, tells one that he isn’t too stressed about it at the moment.
The 20-year-old responded to that comment with big runs during India ‘A’ team’s tour of the West Indies. In August, he became the youngest batsman to score a first-class double hundred when he struck a 257-ball 204 in an unofficial Test in Trinidad. He topped the run aggregates in the ODIs (218 runs at an average of 218 runs) as well as the unofficial Tests (244 runs at an average of 122.00).
A decent tour against South Africa ‘A’ team followed with two nineties in the first-class games and then the selectors came calling.
Gill, whose first-class record after 15 matches stands at 1535 runs at an average of 69.77, got his first call-up to the Indian Test squad against South Africa. He didn’t play a game but just being part of the dressing room was another step in the right direction for him. A little closer to his eventual goal.
“The India dressing room is not very different in terms of atmosphere,” said Gill during an interaction in Mumbai. “Obviously, the level of international cricket is higher but it still comes down to how mentally prepared you are… and how hungry you are for success.”
Gill added: “Obviously, I learned a lot by just being part of the India dressing room. Being able to see how the seniors prepare for a game, the focus before an innings. And also, how they pace an innings.”
After watching the seniors and playing India A cricket, Gill’s understanding of the game at the highest level is starting to take shape.
“Mentally, the big change is that I have to understand is the difference between the different levels of cricket,” said Gill. “Obviously, at the under-19 level and India ‘A’ level, you will still get a lot of loose balls. But at the international level, it gets tighter and that is when one needs greater focus. I also tell myself that I won’t be able to score as easily as I did at the under-19 level. That acceptance is important. After that, pacing the innings well once set is also an important learning. The game doesn’t need to change but the mind does.”
Gill, who was coached by his father initially, has allowed his game to develop naturally and didn’t make too many changes to his batting in the initial years. His father wanted him to retain the raw charm of his batting and always allowed him to figure his own way of doing things.
“There hasn’t been much technical change in my batting,” said Gill. “But as one gains experience by batting and scoring against quality opposition, the increase in confidence is a big thing. I can’t expect myself to score big each time I step onto the field. Obviously, things take time.”
For the moment, Gill does have time on his side. And when he does get stuck, he invariably finds his way back to mentor Rahul Dravid.
“Dravid sir’s influence has been immense. I met him for the first time in 2016 and I have been in regular touch with him since then. He has seen us right from the start and he knows our game inside out. His big advice has always been to try and play like the best version of yourself, don’t try to become like someone else.”
It is never easy to get an opening in the Indian team but as and when it does happen, Gill will be waiting to pounce on it.