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India vs South Africa: Shubman Gill’s handling of expectation and pressure with ease helps get him a Test call-up

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KL Rahul dropped, Rohit Sharma confirmed to be an opener for the upcoming Test series against South Africa. Big news yes, but not as exciting as the inclusion of Shubman Gill who has long been touted as the ‘next big thing in Indian Cricket’. Fans clamored for his selection after every squad that didn’t have his name and Gill himself made sure that the selectors couldn’t ignore him due to the consistent performances for India A.

Just 20 and already an Indian international in ODI cricket. Now, a Test call-up. No one would have mistaken someone if they thought that this has been a fairly quick ride to the top. While no Indian cricketer has a free rise to the top due to the rich talent base in the country, Gill had an extra pressure in the form of fan expectation – Gill to solve our middle-over problems in ODIs; Gill to replace KL Rahul as an opener in Test cricket; Gill to be the next Virat Kohli. But he never let the external factors bog him down, and instead focused solely on honing his skills.

The Punjab-born youngster started to impress with his penchant for big scores from a very young age. In fact, he received the BCCI award for best junior cricketer for two continuous years- 2013-14 and 2014-15. Such brilliant performances for his state at the u-16 level ensured that the selectors couldn’t ignore him for the U-19 team. Gill carried on his ability to score a mountain of runs to the junior international level and finished as the second-highest run-scorer in the 2016 U-19 Asia Cup.

Gill’s maiden Test call-up is a result of his unflinching focus

 

The top-order batsman’s performances only kept getting better as he consistently topped the batting charts during bilateral tours. However, one could say that the crowning moment came during the 2018 U-19 World Cup in New Zealand where both Gill (372 runs in 6 matches) and India dominated the competition and lifted the title.

Subsequently, Kolkata Knight Riders also signed the prodigious talent for a whopping INR 1.8 crore ahead of the 2018 IPL season.

Given that people across India had witnessed Gill’s supreme talent on live TV and also his similarly with Kohli in terms of the batting style, the fan following kept on increasing. All this while, Gill never lost his focus and kept on piling the runs at the domestic level and this ensured that the national selectors started to pick him for India A tours on a consistent basis.

He also used grabbed his opportunities with both hands and scored heavily during the A series against England and in the Quadrangular series involving Australia and South Africa. The sheer amount of runs ensured that Gill would get a chance to make his international debut if anyone gets injured or is rested. Yet, it wasn’t any of those two options as Gill got a break during India’s tour of New Zealand due to KL Rahul’s suspension. Although he couldn’t do much in his first two games with scores of 9 and 7, the selection alone reflected the fact that Gill was in the long-term plans of the senior team.

Can Gill solve India’s Test opening woes and India’s number 4 dilemma? (PA)

 

Even though Gill would have been aware that he only got a chance as Rahul’s replacement, the consequent non-selection for the home series against Australia would have disappointed him. Importantly, however, he didn’t let that affect his game and instead focused on continuing with his process of scoring a lot of runs.

Eventually, Gill’s terrific performances which helped him top the run-scoring charts in both the unofficial Tests and ODIs on the A tour of the West Indies ensured that the selectors had to give an opportunity in the longest format of the game against South Africa. Gill had, in fact, expressed his disappointment of missing the senior team’s tour of the West Indies and that’s why this call-up will be even more sweeter.

At this moment, the star young batsman averages a massive 72.15 after 14 First-class matches.  Even though it seems unlikely that Gill will get an opportunity straightaway, he is definitely on track to fulfill all the fan expectations in the future.

 




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