You have heard stories of Prithvi Shaw being the next Sachin Tendulkar or of Rishabh Pant being the next MS Dhoni, ready to take the world by storm. While there’s absolutely no doubt that these are outrageously talented cricketers, it is appalling that someone equally good or perhaps even better is ignored.
Shubman Gill made experts sit up and notice the class, determination and temperament with which he went about his cricket at the Under-19 World Cup 2018. Having gone into the tournament under the shadow of his captain Shaw, at the end of it he emerged as the most talented and exciting player of the tournament.
With the aura around Shaw who himself had a very good tournament, and with the Indian pacers impressing everyone with their speeds, Gill waited for his opportunity to come under the limelight. And once he got there, Gill didn’t disappoint.
In the five innings that he played in the World Cup, Gill hit three half centuries and one century, finishing with a stunning average of 124. He invoked comparisons with Virat Kohli by more than just appearance; that trademark whip off the wrists to hit the ball between mid wicket and long on along the ground and a couple of exquisite lofted hits were starkly reminiscent of the current Indian captain.
Experts hailed him as one for the future, and also rated him higher than Shaw for a tighter technique.
Post the World Cup, Gill was snapped up by KKR in the IPL. However, he again had to wait for his opportunities. Unlike Shaw who had things easy after being earmarked as an opener and later making his debut as one, Gill, who usually comes in at one down, had to bat in the lower-middle order. And he returned impressive figures of 203 runs in 13 innings at an average of 33.83 and a strike rate of over 146.
Gill has been a consistent performer in first class cricket as well. Averaging over 81 in first class cricket and a shade under 48 in List A, both at very attractive strike rates, there is no denying this lad’s talent and temperament.
Recently Gill has also started opening the innings for his domestic Ranji team Punjab, and has returned very impressive numbers including a double ton. But the one innings that stands out is the 148 (154) he scored against Hyderabad.
Set a target of 338 with hardly 60 overs left in the game, Gill came out all guns blazing. He stitched together a valuable partnership with Mandeep Singh, and seriously threatened to win the match.
It was an innings that was in many aspects reminiscent of the Kohli century in Adelaide in 2014, which by now is part of Indian folklore. However, in a slight detour, the Punjab tail managed to hang on to draw the match despite a collapse after Gill's wicket.
So why is it that after all this Gill continues to remain an untold story in Indian cricket circles? The answer lies in the part of India that Gill hails from. Shaw and Pant represent Mumbai and Delhi in domestic cricket respectively, the two powerhouses of Indian batting, while Gill hails from Punjab: a team that, although fairly successful, pales in prominence and clout when compared to Mumbai.
It is both shocking and disappointing to see how the power that the media and authorities wield can change the entire narrative of cricket for the common man.
Shaw was initially called the next Tendulkar after his debut season exploits in Ranji trophy, and now post his India debut, the narrative has shifted to him being the next Sehwag. Rishabh Pant promises a lot, but he is still miles away from any MSD comparisons.
And then there’s Shubman Gill, perhaps the brightest of the lot. He is not the next Sehwag or the next Dhoni. As he continues knocking the selectors' doors, or as Harsha Bhogle would say, breaks the doors down, they would perhaps liken him to Virat Kohli. But then he would rather remain the only Shubman Gill.
Until that happens though, it's Shubman Gill vs the world!