Six, Four, Four - the 41st over of India’s second innings saved a career that was going down pretty fast.
Shubman Gill would still have scored a century in Visakhapatnam - he looked a million dollars after a few jittery overs in the beginning - but his scathing attack against Rehan Ahmed pretty much confirmed why the Indian team were right in giving him more chances than anyone else.
When India formally decided to move on from Cheteshwar Pujara in 2023, Shubman Gill urged the management to allow him to bat at No.3. A slick backfoot game, a forward defense that could make Rahul Dravid proud and an ability to dispatch bad balls with utter disdain, there was nothing to dislike in Gill’s batting. He seemed a perfect successor to the Saurashtra man.
So it seemed. For the longest time in his career, Pujara owned the Indian conditions like a few did in the past. Between 2010 and 2020, he averaged 59.84 in India, rising to 74.86 against spinners.
From that standard, anyone could only disappoint, but Gill has been touted as a barometer young player for Indian cricket through the lens of which everyone else was going to be discussed. If he was consistently struggling to make runs in Test cricket, questions about IPL being a feeder system for Indian cricket were raised.
The Anthony de Mello Trophy was Gill’s chance to stake a claim - in the absence of Virat Kohli for the first two Tests and then an even weakened batting order due to injuries to KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja after the first Test, Gill had to plunder runs. Batting conditions on offer couldn’t have been more favourable too.
But innings after innings, he found a way to throw away his wicket. In the first innings of the Hyderabad Test, he wasn’t in a position to slog Tom Hartley but decided to go for it anyway, only to hole out to Rehan at mid-wicket. In the second innings, he pushed the ball to Ollie Pope at short-leg to stage a two-ball duck. Did the fortune change in Visakhapatnam? Well, it took some time.
He seemed confident in the first innings but his usual struggle against in-swinging deliveries cast the death keel, for the probing line by James Anderson left him vulnerable to a fault. Edged and taken - his seemingly young Test career was slipping away too fast. But his century in the second innings was a clear validation of why India trust him so much and why there clearly is no one better to replace him with at the moment.
Surely, I wouldn’t make the mistake of calling it the revival of his Test career. The surface had something for all kinds of bowlers to do their tricks, but it was majorly a true Indian wicket where scoring runs was an easier exercise. Gill just had to go back to the basics and recount what had made him such a consistent performer in the Ranji Trophy and age-group cricket. Once he found that strength, it became easy peasy.
But then, with some players, it is always more than what bare statistics would tell you. He is only 24. With Gill, India know they have a generational talent who will go on to have a career of incredible success. There’ll be ups and downs, but if this knock can instill the confidence back and make him go back to being the player he was promised to be, India’s Test future can pretty much be secured.
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