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Shubman Gill, the Test opener, faces an ultimatum

Last updated on 11 Jul 2023 | 01:28 PM
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Shubman Gill, the Test opener, faces an ultimatum

Gill is arguably one of the biggest talents, but talent only gets you to a level

"Shubman Gill, one of our most young exciting batsmen," when an Indian legend in Rahul Dravid introduces you to legendary cricketer Gary Sobers in such a fashion, you know the ceiling is quite huge. 

Shubman Gill’s talent knows no boundaries. His cricketing acumen is sharp, his bat often weaves magic, leaving people in total awe. That’s the near-perfect story; in an ideal world, that’s what Gill aspires to be.

But in reality, he’s far away from that, in the ultimate format - the Tests. One of the fascinating aspects of his game that garnered attention from all quarters is his attacking prowess, which is publicly known, with a strike-rate of 69.09 and an average of 51.68 in First-Class cricket.

However, come to Tests, there is a huge concern. Gill has two Test centuries. But now comes the concern part, he’s played 16 Tests, and the two times he has scored a Test century, it has come on a placid surface in Ahmedabad, against Australia, and another against a tired and blunt Bangladesh bowling attack in Bangladesh. 

If you dive a bit deeper, in his career, Gill has played 10 Tests in Asian conditions, eight at home, where he averages 33.76. Both his hundreds have come in familiar conditions. While he is nothing short of a beast at home, it is often away from home where his frailties have been exposed multiple times. 

Until then, in his career, Gill had scores of 80, 81, 98, and 79, but ever since that, a 14, 26, a zero, and a 36 was a decline in his talent. Fate - a foot injury - had it that Gill was then ruled out of the Test series against England, and a blow to Mayank Agarwal’s head forced a return for KL Rahul. 

And then entered Rahul, who immediately served as the insurance for the Indian team - away from home - and his consistent display in England was enough for India. Since August 2021, KL Rahul had scored the most runs in an Indian jersey in South Africa and England - two of the toughest conditions - that India have faced. 

While not only being at his assured best, the right-hander also scored tough runs, with two centuries and two fifties, having faced 1280 balls - the most for any Indian batter away from home in that period. Rahul's calm and composed demeanour also meant that he earnt himself a reward - in the form of vice-captaincy. 

Gill’s career as an opener was on edge, but then life took a turn for the good when Rahul’s form dipped, giving Gill a second life. 


Life comes to a full circle. 

And for Gill, it allowed him to showcase his talent yet again. In the last two years, Gill has scored seven international tons. One 200. Three centuries in the Indian Premier League. If that wasn’t enough, he has an IPL title against his name. 

When there were doubts over his hitting prowess, Gill also shushed everyone with 33 sixes in the 2023 edition of the IPL, emerging as the trump card for Gujarat Titans. Not just that, Gill also scored 890 runs in the tournament, showing the entire world a truly new version of himself. 

He basically eliminated any sort of asterisk that surrounded him, converting all the starts into a substantial score across the two white-ball formats. However, in Tests, there remains a big question about his temperament. 

Since his exploits in the IPL, Gill only managed scores of 13 and 18. Even then, in both innings, the right-hander looked far more comfortable than the score suggests, and his last involvement in international cricket was controversial when he was ruled out after Cameron Green pulled one nearly off the grass. 

A trip to West Indies couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for Gill. The seed of his international growth was sowed in West Indies when the right-hander smacked 205 runs in the three-match ODI series back in 2022. 

If not for the rain, Gill’s first ODI century, too, could have been in Port of Spain. Throughout that series, the right-hander was at his impressive best - 64, 43 and 98* - which eventually was the reason behind his reinvigoration on the international scene. 

Across his career, there is an evident pattern: Gill is a brilliant player of pace bowling. In his career, the right-hander has scored 541 runs against pace, averaging 31.82 while still striking at 61.9. It isn’t just that, only when the ball is on a length has Gill struggled to gain momentum. Barring that, his strike-rate reads godly: 100, 104.7, 71, 133.9.

Now, he’s back. 

And back in a country where conditions are going to favour his style of batting. A country with plenty of bounce and Calypso beat that will be like a tune to Gill’s ears. 

But as usual, there remains a lot of pressure around Gill, considering Yashasvi Jaiswal’s rapid rise in domestic cricket, and with him finding a place in this new Indian middle-order, all eyes will be on the Punjab opener. 

Whilst it is unlikely that India will not persist with him after this series, there still remains a big threat over his place if he can’t perform in conditions that are perfectly poised for him.

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