You need to be living in a fool’s world to doubt Shubman Gill’s talent.
When people questioned his place in the ODI side, he returned with a crazy year (2023). 1584 runs at an average of 63.36. Highest in the world.
When his place in the T20 squad was questioned, he scored a hundred for India and followed that with an absolutely unbelievable IPL. 890 runs in 17 IPL games at an average of 59.33 and a strike rate of 157.8.
However, the returns in Test cricket, especially away from home, have been far from impressive. Even though he looked promising in his 36-run innings in Cape Town, the same old story repeated itself to provide a subliminal undertone to his career arc.
Since his heroics against Australia in Brisbane almost three years ago - a seminal moment in Indian cricket history - Gill has averaged just 23.60 away from home, with his only fifty-plus score coming up against a weakened Bangladesh attack in Mirpur. Besides that knock, Newlands’ 36 was his only other 30-plus score in away conditions. What does that tell you about Gill, the Test batter?
With the removal of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane from the set-up, India have found themselves in an era of transition for the first time in a decade. There is no guarantee how long Rohit can continue in his role, and that itself makes Gill’s role so paramount to the set-up. If anything, he is perceived as the next superstar and probably the next all-format skipper of the Indian team.
However, if you look at the string of scores and the pattern of dismissals, one could hardly find any reasons to be confident. "I think he is playing a bit too aggressively in Test cricket,” Gavaskar told Star Sports. “There is a slight difference when you play Test cricket when compared to T20I and ODI cricket. The difference is in the ball. The red ball moves a little more than the white ball in the air and off the pitch as well. It bounces a little more too. He should keep that in mind.”
India decided to accommodate Gill at the vacant No.3 position, which Rohit Sharma stated, was the Punjab batter’s preferred batting position. India are ready to do that because they know the impact he could bring in before Virat Kohli or Shreyas Iyer arrives. Heck, that has hardly been the case.
A paltry average of 19.4 against away swingers has been further exacerbated by an average of 22.3 against balls coming into him. He doesn’t even have a semi-decent record against reverse swing, scoring just 19 runs per dismissal. That is a sorry state of affairs for a batter who has promised to aim for the stars but has rather been settled for dust.
Good length deliveries have caused quite a problem for Gill in non-sub-continent conditions, which is compounded when it is coming in the fourth and fifth stump line. Gill, with his readiness to drive, has failed to judge them correctly.
In the ongoing series, Gill has managed just 64 runs in total, but as a sign of his ability, he has the highest control percentage (85.6%) - even better than Dean Elgar, who hardly looked troubled in Centurion. That is a vote of confidence in his ability, but without returns, we know all these are just basic numbers in a spreadsheet.
Can Gill turn that promise into real value? That’s the answer the nation desperately wants to know.
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