In 2018, the Indian U-19 side created history after winning the ICC World Cup for a record fourth time. The influence of pragmatic coach Rahul Dravid was being hailed as one of the reasons behind their historic triumph. But, at the heart of it all, it was the performances of young Indian cricketers who all stepped up in dire situations to aid their side.
While Prithvi Shaw garnered plaudits for his leadership skills, young seamers Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi were touted as the next big things after they were seen crossing the 150kmph barrier on regular occasions in the tournament. But, apart from them, there was one batting prodigy - Shubman Gill - whose majestic strokeplay and commendable temperament left former cricketers and fans in awe.
The right-hander smashed a match-winning hundred and three fifties - amassing 321 runs - to be rightly adjudged the 'Player of the Tournament'. His batting display impressed the cricket bigwigs so much that he evenly bagged a staggering Rs 1.80-crore payout from Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Auctions last season.
Shubman, along with his teammates, continues to be hailed as the next big superstars of Indian cricket. But, while Shaw was seen making a fantastic debut, young Shubman was left to ply his trade in domestic cricket. The fierce competition in the Indian team has often denied opportunities to many cricketers in the past. Thus, there was no surprise to see Shubman waiting for his chance to rumble with the big boys.
After consistently proving his mettle in the domestic circuit, where he slammed a 328-ball 268 against Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy earlier this season, the Punjab batsman, finally, has an opportunity to make a mark in the senior team when Team India locks horns with New Zealand in the fourth ODI on 31st January.
Having already sealed the five-match ODI series 3-0, the Indian cricket team opted for numerous changes in a bid to give some star players rest and try out youngsters for the remaining two games. With Virat Kohli rested for the remainder of the tour, the vacant No. 3 spot gives a perfect opportunity to a player like Shubman to showcase his talent in front of the cricket bigwigs.
For a person who idolises Kohli, the 19-year-old looks like a shadow of his role model with the willow in his hands. A right-hander like Kohli, Shubman has great hand-eye coordination that helps him to time the ball to perfection. His ability to finds gaps, play the big shots and rotate the strike are all Kohli-esque. And, just like the Indian captain, Shubman thrives in the No. 3 position for his team.
The youngster has already developed a great understanding of the game and possess the ability to pace his innings according to the match situations - something that reflects in his tally of 1,089 runs in 9 first-class games and 1,529 runs in 36 List A matches. While negating New Zealand's senior cricketers will surely be no joke, Shubman, on the back of his showing so far, seems capable of carrying that weight on his young shoulders.
“Well because the No. 3 spot is vacant, I would want to give Shubman Gill a game, give him a couple of games and see how he fares. If he gets to bat, you will get a fair idea how he is taking to international cricket,” Sunil Gavaskar backed the youngster while talking to India Today.
On the other hand, Kohli, himself, after the 3rd ODI, showered praise and backed the capabilities of Gill to come good on his debut. “I think there are some outstanding talents. We saw Prithvi Shaw grab the opportunity with both hands. Shubman is a very exciting talent and I saw him bat in the nets and I was like wow I was not even 10 per cent of that when I was 19,” Kohli had said.
“So, that's the confidence that they carry and it's great for Indian cricket, the standard keeps going up and the guys coming in can make those impact performances straightaway. And, we are more than happy to give them chances and provide them with the space to grow,” he further added.
Apart from Gavaskar and Kohli, Sourav Ganguly, too, placed his bet on Shubman to come good. "I think they should play Shubman Gill. He certainly deserves a chance in the team. He should play the rest of the series. Who knows, India might get another good player for the World Cup," Ganguly told India TV.
Carrying high hopes and expectations on his young shoulders, Shubman will be eager to make his mark in the senior team and, maybe, play a decisive role in helping India claim a 4-0 lead - the biggest series win (across formats) in their 52 years of touring New Zealand.