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Opinion

Kohli still the big fish but Gill breathes new life into an Indian team which could sink Australia next summer

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Roar Guru
21st March, 2024
16
1230 Reads

When Shubman Gill made his Test debut against Australia at the MCG, a select few outside of India had known about the then 21-year-old sensation from Punjab.

Opening the batting, Gill impressed in his debut Test series, scoring 258 runs in six innings, including a then career best of 91 at the Gabba in India’s famous series clinching run chase of 329. Gill seemed a different breed, especially with his ability to take on the short ball comfortably – a rare trait among subcontinental batters who have grown up on lower bouncing surfaces.

But just as quickly as Gill rose to fame in India for his exploits in Australia, Test cricket humbled him as the runs dried up with opposition bowlers figuring out his weakness towards in-swingers and left-arm spin.

With Gill playing in all formats for India, he never had the opportunity to go back to the Ranji Trophy consistently and score runs again at first class level to find his feet. And the troubles continued with his first two Test centuries coming on the best batting wickets in Bangladesh and India respectively, with his other innings offering little substance.

With India losing the 2023 World Test Championship final to Australia and the rise of Yashashvi Jaiswal at first class level, Gill should have been dropped from the Indian Test team. Despite averaging under 33 after 16 Tests, Gill got a lifeline from the Indian Test team, as he replaced veteran Cheteshwar Pujara at number three.

But the runs were not coming for Gill as he struggled to make an impact in the away tours of West Indies and South Africa. Despite not starting the beginning of a five-match series well against England at home, it all started to change in the second innings of the second Test as Gill scored a counter-attacking 104 off 147 deliveries on a turning Visakhapatnam pitch as India went on to win the second Test by 106 runs.

However, it was his knock of 52 not out in the fourth Test at Ranchi that impressed many. With India chasing 192 to clinch the Test series on a low pitch, the hosts were in a spot of bother at 5/120. Gill curbed his natural instincts of taking on the bowlers, biding his time and waiting 120 deliveries to hit his first boundary as he and wicketkeeper Dhruv Jurel took India to a five wicket victory.

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Gill finished the Test series with a breathtaking 110 and currently has four Test centuries to his name in 25 Test matches at an average of 35.52.

There’s no doubt that Shubman Gill has had an extended run at Test level compared to his competitors in India. However, it is hard not to give Shubman Gill an extended run when he had scored double hundreds in the West Indies and New Zealand in first class cricket before he had turned 21.

Shubman Gill and Dhruv Jurel celebrate the winning runs for India.

Shubman Gill and Dhruv Jurel celebrate the winning runs for India. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

In fact, one could say that Shubman Gill is being given the VVS Laxman treatment, who had scored a mere 925 runs in 36 Test innings before a breathtaking 281 against Australia in Kolkata changed his career.

Shubman Gill has had comparisons to Virat Kohli from his under 19 days. And it is difficult not to do so to an extent. Both are Punjabi boys who love to rile the opposition up and bat long, especially on pitches with consistent bounce. There is an aura of confidence when these two players bat and when they are on song.

Kohli is still the big fish in the Indian Test team, especially now that he has found form in all formats over the past 12–18 months. But Shubman Gill is the next big wicket for Australia as he comes to Australia for the second time in hopes of emulating what Virat Kohli did in his second Test tour of Australia.

Gill comes into the tour of Australia next summer with confidence that he belongs at Test level and can grind his way to playing a match-winning knock.

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Add in his ability to do well on pitches with high bounce and Australia need to prepare well for Gill, or else things could get ugly for Australia and fail to regain the Border Gavaskar Trophy, having lost it four series in a row.

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