Published: October 26, 2018 12:46:00 am
Did you watch that six Shubman Gill hit off Ravichandran Ashwin at the Deodhar Trophy match on Thursday? If you haven’t, make sure you watch the highlights package. It’s never easy to just skip down the track and deposit one of the finest off-spinners in contemporary cricket into the mid-wicket fence. That singular shot encapsulates Shubman all-encompassing talent. The nimble footwork, astute judgement of length and that eye-catching downswing of the bat. Shubman showed it all.
On a slightly up-and-down track at the Ferozshah Kotla, the 19-year-old displayed gumption, match-awareness and incredible maturity to crunch a sumptuous unbeaten 106, which propelled India C into the Deodhar Trophy final. The cornerstone of this exquisitely crafted knock was the seamless manner in which he was able to shift gears, which was backed by the sense to forge partnerships, all of which proved to be instrumental in pursuit of India A’s score of 293/6.
Shubman was involved in two match-defining partnerhips, a 121-run stand for the fourth wicket with Ishan Kishan, and once Kishan departed, he teamed up with Suryakumar Yadav, whose 36-ball 56 helped them overhaul the target with three overs to spare. The key, Shubman, says was in understanding his partner’s game and rotating the strike to keep the run-rate under control.
“It was important to convert loose balls on this wicket. When I was batting with Ishaan, we kept finding the odd boundary, after which we kept telling ourselves to keep taking singles and not lose our wickets,” he said. “When Surya came around, he came with the reputation of a big-hitter from the IPL. So, I looked to play the anchor’s role and made sure that I batted till the end.”
What stood out was the ridiculous ease with which he played a competent India A bowling attack comprising Siddharth Kaul, Mohammad Siraj and Dhawal Kulkarni and Ashwin. More than anything else, it was the poise he showcased against Ashwin that showed his potential as a big league player. For many old timers at Kotla, Shubman’s duels with Ashwin, in many ways, was reminiscent of the manner in which Dilip Vengsarkar took on Erapalli Prasanna in an Irani Trophy game, an innings that saw him cement his place in the Indian middle-order in the early 80s.
Former Mumbai batsman Amol Mazumdar believes that apart from being blessed with an orthodox technique, what set Shubman apart from others was the beautiful downswing of the bat. “He has this lovely downswing of the bat, and the arc that he generates is something that’s really special. That’s a gift, which not a lot of young batsmen possess.” This downswing was clearly on display when he despatched Ashwin into the stands. Mazumdar, who knows a thing or two about spotting young talent, got a first-hand glimpse of the Jalalabad lad two years ago at the NCA premises in Bengaluru. And the moment he set his eyes on him, Mazumdar knew he was special. “Back in 2016, when I was the batting coach of India’s U-19 team, I visited the NCA premises, which was conducting a camp for some of the best young players. Shubman caught my eye immediately. He looked fluent and there was something that was eye-catching,” he noted.
Minimalism of movement
Mazumdar said the other impressive trait about Shubman’s batting was that it was bereft of too many movements, a trend witnessed with several upcoming batsmen due to the influx of T20. “He does not have too many cute movements. Prefers to stay still in the crease and has a very uncluttered approach to batting that’s very refreshing in these times,” he added.
Despite the obvious talent, there are other factors that have contributed to Shubman blossoming into such a refined pedigree so early. Lakhwinder, his cricket-mad father, who doubled up as his coach was his early influence. With time, it was Rahul Dravid, the present U-19 coach, who fine-tuned and expanded his skillset. Shubman reckoned spending time with Harbhajan and Yuvraj in the Punjab dressing room also played a role in his progress.
Winning the U-19 World Cup in New Zealand was Shubman’s high point, a showpiece event in which he finished as the second highest scorer with 372 runs from five games. His performances in New Zealand opened the doors to a plum Rs 1.8 crore contract with KKR. Following the IPL gig, he was on the flight to England for the quandrangular series. Throughout this year, he has been literally living out of the suitcase. But this constant travelling put him in touch with a plethora of international and fringe Indian players, who helped him understand his game better. The teenager is a self-confessed cricket nerd, frequenting CricketArchive like a wide-eyed fan boy digging into little-known statistics about Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli. He also admitted that he avidly watched international matches on television, just to gauge how the international cricketers got their act together. “I would watch a lot of cricket on TV and then pratise hard and try to implement them in matches,” he explained.
Even as he sees Prithvi Shaw, his U-19 captain making waves at international cricket, Shubman is not too perturbed and plays down talk of harbouring such high expectations. “I just enjoy batting and scoring runs. All these things don’t stay in your mind when you go out to bat,” he opined. Anyone who witnessed his dreamy knock at the Kotla will be assured that he has left a lasting impression in the minds of those who matter. Brief Scores: India C 296/4 (Shubman Gill 106*, Ishan Kishan 69, Suryakumar Yadav 56*) beat India A 293/6 (Nitish Rana 68) by 6 wkts.