After India completed their third straight ODI win over New Zealand to take a 3-0 lead in the series, captain Virat Kohli, who will be rested for the remaining two games, hinted that 19-year-old top-order batsman Shubman Gill could make his international debut.
Kohli lauded the youngster in his post-match comments. “I saw him bat in the nets and I was like, ‘Wow, I was not even ten per cent of that when I was 19!’”
It’s high praise, especially considering the source. But what’s the lowdown on the teen prodigy?
Who the hell?
In February 2017, Gill made his List A debut for his home state Punjab aged just 17 and has since gone on to establish himself as an integral part of their 50-over and four-day sides, after making his Ranji Trophy debut later that same year in November.
Having already scored 1,089 first-class runs in just nine Ranji Trophy games at an average of 77.78 and 1,529 runs in List A cricket at an average of 47.78, it is no surprise that Gill has attracted his fair share of admirers, which include Indian legend Sourav Ganguly, fellow Punjab teammate Yuvraj Singh and now captain Kohli.
Gill has that invaluable ability to score big when he gets in, and has been in wonderful form since returning from India A’s tour of New Zealand in December, scoring 268 against Tamil Nadu and 148 against Hyderebad in the Ranji Trophy to warrant his call-up to the Indian ODI squad after the suspensions of KL Rahul and Hardik Pandya.
What’s his story?
Although his impending debut has only come about due to the absence of other players, there can be no doubt that it is deserved, and in almost any other team he’d be a shoo-in. He has shown admirable versatility, adapting his game to act as Kolkata Knight Riders’ finisher in the 2018 IPL, averaging 33.83 at a strike-rate of 146.04 when batting at No.7.
These IPL displays came off the back of a Player of the Tournament display in India’s Under 19 World Cup win in New Zealand last year, where he plundered 372 runs at an average of 124.00 and starred alongside Prithvi Shaw.
This form has since been taken into the current Indian domestic season where has scored at least fifty in every Ranji Trophy game he’s played. Gill’s familiarity with New Zealand conditions should stand him in good stead too.
Just three months before Gill’s breakout performances at the Under 19s World Cup, he suffered a spell on the sidelines after picking up a side strain in training, which caused him to miss the vast majority of his inaugural India A call-up against New Zealand A. How he has bounced back from that setback since is admirable.
First off, Gill has the biggest shoes in world cricket to fill, considering Kohli, perhaps the greatest ODI batsman of all time, is the man he’s replacing. Beyond that, holding onto his place when Kohli returns, in a team with plenty of batting options could prove tricky.
“I actually feel Shubman Gill is a better player than Prithvi Shaw. I feel he is the best player in this [U19] team. He is a bit like Brian Lara and Kane Williamson” – Sourav Ganguly