Gurpreet saves, Steve Smith’s moves, Shubman Gill is in: The best sports reads of the week

Steve Smith is unusually still at the crease when Stuart Broad hits the delivery stride. He then opens up his stance, moves sideways and drags himself to the leg side before pulling Broad through midwicket.

How Steve Smith defies all batting manuals

Has there been a grander return to Test cricket from exile than Steve Smith’s? After he ensured Australia held on to the Ashes with a stellar performance, Sriram Veera wrote about Smith’s batting technique and how he "is the most arrogant batsman of the modern era."

"Not because he thrashes and biffs the ball many others do it a lot better but in the way he constantly undermines and teases the bowlers. The drive off the back foot. That last-instant leave. The casual swipe across the line as if he is flicking dirt off his trousers. The sudden decision to go inside-out to balls that he usually smears through the on side," he wrote in a column.

Also see: This frame-by-frame explainer on how Steve Smith moves around in the crease.

Impassable Gurpreet makes an unlikely draw possible

After crashing to defeat against Oman and lacking captain Sunil Chhetri, India wasn’t expected to do much against Qatar at Doha. But thanks to a stellar performance by goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, India came away with a point.

Kudos to the Indian national team and the goalkeeper who did not allow us to get the three points, said Felix Sanchez, Oman’s coach, after the match.

This graphic shows just how many shots the Indian goalkeeper fended off:

Illustration by Suvajit Dey

Sandhu became only the fourth goalkeeper this year to stop a flashy, scoring-goals-for-fun Qatar side from finding the back of the net, but was modest about it and gave a lot of credit to the team’s defenders.

"The ones that they missed were all offsides. So credit where due, our defence held that line and made sure it was difficult for them to score, Sandhu told The Indian Express.

Shubman Gill gets the call

Shubman Gill would often land up on a cricket archive site, digging up obscure games that Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma or Cheteshwar Pujara had played when they were at the U-16 or U-19 level.

Especially Kohli. Yaar Virat Kohli jab 16 or 19 years tha, to kya karta tha? (what did he do?) How many runs he used to make? I would open up his record and check! Gill once told this newspaper. Achcha itna inse to hamara zyaada hai yaar! Matlab sahi ja raha hai! (Ah, These many I have more runs than him. It means it s going well!).

In this profile of Gill, who has finally been called up to play for India in the upcoming series against South Africa, Sriram Veera writes about how the stylish opening batsman believes he can’t fail more than three games in a row, chose practice over masti (enjoyment) and got noticed at the age of 11.

Nitin Sharma spoke with his father, who spoke about his son’s appetite for runs at a young age.

Decoding the decision to let Rohit Sharma open in Tests

Apart from Gill, the other big announcement for the Test series was the inclusion of Rohit Sharma in the squad as an opener. But as Sandip G points out in his piece, Sharma is replacing an out-of-form KL Rahul, not the young Gill.

He writes: "There are layers to this narrative that could potentially turn out to be the central thread of the series, and multiple prisms through which the decision would be viewed. There s hope and scepticism, fear and risk, pragmatism and even a sense of desperation about Rohit opening in Tests."

Former India opener-turned-MP Gautam Gambhir was pretty clear on what India’s strategy should be. "If he (Rohit) does well, the world opens up for him. But if he doesn t, then it s time to look at someone else for this slot," he said.

Hima Das gets picked for relay, but may not run

Hima Das. (File)

Hima Das, the World Under-20 400m champion, has been pencilled in the women’s and the mixed 4x400m squads for the World Championships. But Nihal Koshie writes that her participation depends on her recovery from the longstanding back injury and how it would affect her timings in the team events.

A decision on Hima running the relays will be taken based on the feedback from sports medicine experts monitoring her, said Athletics Federation of India president Adille Sumariwalla.