Axe a bitter pill Shubman Gill must come to terms with

Shubman Gill for GT (Image: IPL)

“I learnt a lot from the World Cup in India. I realised the significance of playing a World Cup and it’s always a dream to represent India in the World Cup. But if I don’t make the grade this time, I can only say that I will cheer for the players and wish them luck.”

This was Shubman Gill a few days before the team selection on Tuesday in Ahmedabad. The timing and tenor of the statement suggests he might have already seen the writing on the wall. Brightest youngster on the horizon, potential flag-bearer of Virat Kohli’s legacy and future captain — Gill had big things said of him, before being reduced to a name listed among the reserves in the meeting to pick India’s T20 World Cup squad.

This may be attributed to bad luck. The 15-member team has multiple contenders for the top-order slots. Aura, form, record and hunger to succeed in national colours make Virat Kohli an undisputed choice. Yashasvi Jaiswal is a rare talent with a bright future who adds variety as a left-handed opener. And Rohit Sharma is the captain. It doesn’t matter if he has been just about okay or good in IPL 2024.

Performance in IPL was not a stringent yardstick in this selection anyway. Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Siraj also made the cut despite being rather ordinary, off late. However, the selectors led by Ajit Agarkar considered their past and potential to do well in the immediate future before choosing to ignore that their current form is not overwhelming.

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Shubman Gill for GT in IPL 2023
Shubman Gill for GT in IPL 2023 (PC: GT/X)

That is why Gill’s omission seems odd. We are evaluating potential — which means the ability to achieve or succeed — based on past records and the condition of the player at the time of selection. It’s impossible to catch the Gujarat Titans captain short on any of these parameters. His IPL 2024 record of 320 runs in 10 innings with a strike rate of 140-plus is not great, but better than some of the players picked.

A star from his U-19 days, Gill took his time to blossom into one of India’s best bets as an all-format batter. The last year saw the Punjab player pile up 790 runs in 18 IPL innings, make a T20I century, an ODI double century and a Test century against Australia. He had a decent 50-over World Cup as well, after a bout of dengue.

Gill was the Prince waiting to take over from King Kohli. Experts raved over the quality of his shot production, balance, poise and temperament. The drives through off, flicks and short-arm pulls enchanted commentators and fans alike. Runs under pressure against England established him as the new No.3 of the Test team.

About to take that momentum forward and put to practise what he ‘learnt’ from last year’s World Cup, Gill has suddenly hit a roadblock. Luck played a part and so did the complex and intangible yardsticks of selection. Other than a career average of 25.76 in T20Is, he isn’t short on any count. Even that average is acceptable at his strike rate of 147, which is higher than Kohli’s and Rohit’s.

“Sometimes, this happens. You have to leave a good player out. That’s what seems to have happened with Gill,” Sunil Gavaskar said on Sports Tak. Gill has to swallow this pill. There will be opportunities to live up to expectations and still just 24, he will be wiser by this experience. Not in the T20 scheme of things, he can embrace the essence of this format that says ‘things can change very quickly’, on his comeback trail.

Also Read: Short batting time for KKR and cross-bat game: How Rinku lost out on T20 World Cup selection