Cape Town Test: India seek equaliser with Gill under the scanner

Rohit Sharma in practice session
Rohit Sharma in a practice session (Source: Subhayan)

The stage shifts from Centurion to Cape Town, nearly 1,500 kilometres to the south. To haul their performance graph up north in the second and final Test against South Africa, India will have to defy history. They have played eight Test matches here, losing six and drawing two.
Simply put, Rohit Sharma & Co. have to bat and bowl better than they did in the first Test, where they made paltry totals of 245 and 131, against South Africa’s 408. They crumbled with the bat collectively and similarly struggled with the ball. There were individual exceptions, which remained consolation prizes in a colossal defeat.

While all eyes will be on the Test match, some of them will be on Shubman Gill. Not singling him out for any reason, but just have curious eyes, on someone billed as the next big thing from the stable of great Indian batters. In three years in international cricket, Gill ticked a few important boxes, which made everybody sit up and take notice.

But, for some reason, the 24-year-old has not impacted Test matches like the way he has white-ball games. In the shorter formats, a century or a fifer can define the match. In a Test match, those may be just one of the notable contributions. Considering that, it’s difficult to dominate a five-day match like an ODI or a T20.

However, Gill’s Test career has been all promise yet average not only because of that. There is a pattern emerging, which is disconcerting. After a 50, a 91 and a few other handy knocks on his debut tour of Australia three years ago, the Punjab player has recorded a highest of 29 not out in 11 innings outside Asia. He crossed 20 in just three of those. Shifting to his preferred spot at No. 3 has not been a success so far.
Fastest to 2000 ODI runs, a staggering average of 61.37 and some bold and beautiful knocks in this format were extremely creditable.

‘Stylish’ has become an overused word while describing batting, but it fits Gill perfectly. He makes batting visually pleasing, with intricacies, subtleties and some delicate nuances. That is why he is spoken of so highly.

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Somehow, those traits have not worked consistently in the longest version of cricket. He averages 33.76 in 10 Tests in Asia. In nine Tests in Australia, England, West Indies and South Africa, this figure is 28. For a batter of his calibre, stardom and following, these are below-par numbers. For Gill to click in Test cricket is still awaited, something he has done in the shorter formats.

His first-innings dismissal at Centurion was described as unfortunate. Many down-the-leg caught-behinds are, but when a batter flirts with deliveries outside leg stump above the waist, there is an element of danger in it. Gill tried that. He looked sublime in the second essay before being castled playing across the line. That shot was unbecoming of a Test No. 3 batter.

This doesn’t rule Gill out or suggest that he cannot do better. If not anything else, he has, by and large, appeared to be an accomplished player, with some qualities not seen in everybody. That has to translate into Test runs for this poster boy to make a long-lasting impression. Technique, temperament, application or whatever else, he has to find the answers.

Rohit Sharma’s boys have to do likewise. It’s not about being answerable to anyone, but about working hard, doing what is required and finding answers to the questions asked of them in the first Test. Failure will dent reputations, individually and collectively.

Venue Details and Time

Cape Town. January 3. From 1.30 PM IST

Expected conditions

The forecast is bright and pleasant. Expect the pitch to contain something for the fast bowlers.


India: Rohit Sharma (c), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj. Two of Prasidh Krishna, Shardul Thakur, Mukesh Kumar, and Ravichandran Ashwin.

South Africa: Dean Elgar (c), Aiden Markram, Tony de Zorzi, Keegan Petersen, Zubayr Hamza, David Bedingham, Kyle Verreynne (wk), Marco Jansen, Kagiso Rabada, Nandre Burger, Keshav Maharaj/Lungi Ngidi.

Rohit Sharma in Ahmedabad
Rohit Sharma in Ahmedabad (Image: Debasis Sen)


Rabada and South African fast bowlers against the Indian batters. It’s not about individuals anymore when it comes to India’s batting. They have to stand up together.

Match speak

The conditions look pretty similar. I mean, the pitch looks similar to what it was in Centurion, maybe not so much grass, but there is enough covering of grass on the pitch. But yeah, the overhead conditions will matter. I think it’s pretty hot here compared to Centurion.
Rohit Sharma, India captain

There’s no bigger honour than to captain your country irrespective of who you are playing against, but India adds more flavour. India is the powerhouse nation in the world and we are in a situation where I can influence and try to get a 2-nil win.
Dean Elgar, South Africa captain

Also Read: How Sachin Tendulkar made himself ‘Shorter’ to see off Allan Donald in Cape Town

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