Gill Faces Test of Steel and Skill


PC: Debasis Sen

Looking at it holistically and taking into account performances in the past along with the probability of success in the future, this can be seen as a passing blip.

Narrowing the viewpoint and sticking strictly to the present, the reality may appear different. He was tipped to be the next Indian batting superstar, a few months before the actual countdown to the World Cup began. With the big moment coming closer, Shubman Gill is short on runs.

Like the greatest of them all, Gill is entitled to lean patches. Hardly any batter in modern cricket escapes that. And it’s good in a way that this unproductive phase has come in a comparatively less demanding outing in the West Indies.

Despite Gill not getting runs at No. 3, India won the Test series. Back as opener in the ODIs, he came good in the decider and contributed 85 to set up India’s match-winning total of 351. The T20Is have yielded 3, 7 and 6 so far, but that’s not a format bothering a lot of people at the moment.

What might worry some is that the knock of 85 remains by far his best in his last 11 innings across formats starting from the World Test Championship final. The next-highest of 34 came in the second ODI. If scoring runs is a habit, Gill seems to have lost touch with it. Runs give confidence and a shortage of them can make reloading an irksome process. A change in formats does not always solve this problem.

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There are periods when batters get starts before getting a good ball or playing a bad shot or falling to a freak fielding effort. Gill got starts thrice. In eight other innings, he got out before he had faced 20 balls. On a few occasions, the bowlers were spinners. That can weigh on the mind, being unable to spend time in the middle, not grinding through the tough period.

Does this make Gill’s place in the World Cup squad uncertain? No. Can this string of low scores make him a little unsure of himself? Yes, and no.

India will play eight or nine ODIs before the World Cup, in Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup and against Australia at home. That gives Gill mental space and time to recompose and get a few runs under his belt. His average in India is 64.00 in 12 ODIs, slightly better than a career average of 62.47 in 27 games.

Numbers are a static reflection of what has earned Gill fame and money before turning 24. Not exactly an epitome of technical perfection, he picks the length early, plays with soft hands and relies on timing. That makes him pleasing to the eye, or classy. Power becomes an extension of his game when he dominates. He is a potential emperor of these conditions.

Coming to the question where the answer was ‘yes, and no’, this is a test for Gill the batter, who has taken early steps towards becoming a special player. It is also a time to learn lessons no coach can teach. If he has it in him, he will bounce back and repay the faith the team has shown by giving him a long run and letting him choose his position in Test cricket.

Even the bravest will not say they were without a fear in the world after a chain of low scores. Needless to say, Gill will feel some pressure. But this is the time and stage for him to demonstrate guts and the ability to deliver, under the twin pressures of coming off failures and living up to expectations.

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