Just ahead of the Test series against New Zealand, the Indian management had a similar question that dangled in front of them - a second chance for the talented Prithvi Shaw or a break for the well-deserved Shubman Gill who had just scored a double century in Kiwiland. India chose the former.
Cut to Australia, a similar question seemingly haunts them ahead of a crucial four-match Test series, which now has more on offer than just honour and pride - a shot at facing Australia in the final of the World Test Championship. Technically adept and a talent like none other in the country currently, Shubman Gill’s goods have raised above the ceiling but one thing that has consistently harmed his cause - a questionable attitude and discipline.
Having grown up practising cricket on the concrete, his back foot punches and the pull shot has become his staple diet and has given him a cutting edge over the others during his formative years. Watching Shubman Gill bat can be best described as a lot of thuds against the middle of the bat with the ball flying across the ground - such has been his prowess thus far in the domestic scene. But what caught the eye of the selectors before the Test series was his attitude - one that certainly didn’t get him anywhere.
It was an incident that occurred during Punjab’s Ranji Trophy encounter with Delhi. After having been ruled out by the on-field umpire, a visibly dejected Gill just like several disappointed batsmen in the past went up to the umpire to show his displeasure. As it turned out, he was given a reprieve just after that, which sparked a controversy like never before in the Ranji Trophy.
An average of 69.74 and 2162 runs under his name in First-Class cricket, the batsman who thwacked the ball more often than not would have featured in any of the best of International teams but the Indian management deemed him luxury, which only reinstated his groundwork. In Fazilka, a district that has since his emergence seen a lot of attention and traffic on social media, the right-hander had spent his formative years trying to punch his weight above expectations, which also included getting on top of the bouncing deliveries.
So when he was picked in the squad for the series against Australia, everything came hurling to his support, not least his ability to play effortlessly on the backfoot, something that has been missing from mainstream Indian cricket. But a litmus test was the call of the hour and the two tour games naturally served as the test of his capabilities. Luckily for Gill, he had a Test before the practice - a hit out in the third ODI at Canberra where the plays off his backfoot rocked the Australian quicks early on in the innings.
That set the precedent for the Indian fans, they knew what exactly he had to offer. But as they say, red-ball cricket is a different sport from its white-ball mate, which would expose the frailties more than the other. Gill’s frailties were that he had never played red-ball cricket at the highest level before in Australia and wasn’t even part of the squad in 2018/19, which naturally raised the levels of expectation from the team.
As he walked out on Day 1 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the fear was always going to be there - whether another failure would cost him the place at the hands of Prithvi Shaw. But as he was playing, it looked like none - not even Virat Kohli would snatch his place. The sound of the bat was almost an ominous sign for the Australian ‘A’ bowlers and his backfoot movement almost as artistic as it could ever get in international cricket.
Rocked back, lullabying himself into a soundtrack as soothing as the Beethovens, Gill’s blade found a different tune - an instant recipe of a platinum album that could win a Grammy. At the other end, Prithvi Shaw showed signs but failed in a similar fashion as he was a textbook read by several in their kindergarten. Gill seemed to be a real eyeful for the cricket-phile, and his strokes certainly the tune that hit the management’s right tracks.
Once he got out for a 58-ball 43, India seemed to have their life sucked out of them and their heartbeat was out there back to the dressing room, with Gill having impressed every single soul in what looked like a credit-worthy teaser. The second day’s play ensured that he wasn’t a Day 1 bully, with a real show against the Australian attack, which fatigued every minute he was at the crease. Gill’s classy batting, with time and maturity, had overshadowed his talent but at the other end, Shaw’s talent seemingly always overshadowed his performance.
At any other venue, the crowd would have gone frolicking at the sight of the young Mumbaikar’s dazzling performance but in Australia, it merely motivated a single soul into belief. However, the classy Gill showed that it doesn’t matter how exuberant a talent can be; hard work and a good show always triumphs it all. In New Zealand, he missed out merely by an inch but in Australia, after the two practise games, he is miles ahead of the competition - which has looked his own. From the classical genre of the yesteryear stars Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, Gill has emerged as the new star of the town, on the back of his 78-ball 65 which excited the entire Indian fans in unison.
When he was dismissed, another dubious decision that went against him, a much-matured version of himself, Gill walked off shaking his head, offering none of the words to the umpire as he walked off the pitch, seemingly having sealed his position as the opener alongside Mayank Agarwal. With time and maturity, Shubman Gill’s class has overshadowed his talent and his tune has rung in the good ears of the management.