Unsung hero Gill emerges as second-innings rescuer

Shubman Gill in action during the 4th test of the India vs England series 2024 (Image: BCCI)

There were several heroes in India taking an unassailable 3-1 lead in the Test series against England. Yashasvi Jaiswal, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja and Dhruv Jurel were at the forefront. Kuldeep Yadav and Ravichandran Ashwin were not far behind.

Shubman Gill is perhaps among the unsung heroes. The runs he made were not celebrated as much as those made by Jaiswal, Jurel or Sarfaraz Khan. But make no mistake, Gill made those runs in the second innings. These efforts either helped India consolidate on leads, or finish the match off. Either way, they helped the team win.

In the second, third and fourth Tests, when India needed those runs, Gill responded. His scores in the second innings of these matches were 104, 91 and 52 not out. Buried under the exploits of others, these runs were worth their weight in gold because they came when India needed them badly.

His place in the XI in doubt after the first innings of the second Test, following a series of low returns, Gill responded in the best manner possible. Runs in the second innings assume greater value when they are made on deteriorating pitches and with the pressure increasing. Sometimes, these knocks mean the difference between victory and defeat.

In the second Test in Visakhapatnam, India had to push their overall lead close to 400. In a second innings total of 255, Gill huffed and puffed in the beginning but built on that period of struggle. The situation was similar in the third Test in Rajkot. Gill laid the platform in association with Jaiswal and Kuldeep for others to up the ante and take the Test beyond England. The fourth one in Ranchi demanded someone to be there till the end. Gill was that man.


The Ranchi effort should rank among the best. A stroke-player who has made heads turn in white-ball cricket, he likes to score at every given opportunity. He has those shots. Here, the situation demanded a vastly different, grafting game devoid of frills. He had to hang in on a tough pitch no matter how ugly he looked. Gill embraced the situation.

These are the knocks that enhance the reputation of a player among his peers. A player rises in the esteem of his teammates. Respect for Gill in the Indian dressing room must have increased after that stellar show in Ranchi. He could not afford to be the batter everybody knows. He had to become someone he was not, for the sake of the team. In other words, he had to bat out of his comfort zone.

Gill dead-batted, got beaten or misjudged the flight at times. He didn’t hit a four or six until he had faced 119 deliveries. It wasn’t a fluent effort that was pleasing on the eye. But, it didn’t matter because it was about not blinking first. There was no room for aesthetics in that situation. Someone had to be there after India started losing wickets. Gill did that dirty job. It looked ugly, but required patience and steel. The batter displayed both.

Gill does better in the second innings. In 24 Tests, he averages above 40 in the second innings and in the 20s in the first. India’s greatest second-innings rescuer, VVS Laxman, had an average of just below 50 in the second innings, which was higher than his first-innings average. In a short career, Gill is faring similarly. In his first series in Australia, he had made 91 in the memorable chase in Brisbane.

These efforts should cement Gill’s place at No. 3 at least for a while. And scoring under pressure should fill him with self-belief. He has now done it on enough occasions to tell himself that he can stand up to the challenge when the chips are down. That is what a team wants, not small blasts of bravado or visually pleasing strokes. Test cricket is all about grit at times, and Gill has shown that.


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