Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, December 30
Shubman Gill, 21 years old, has plenty of time at his hands. Gill has showed that he’s got time while batting in the middle, too. The time you have in playing strokes against fast bowlers is the real indicator your class — Gill is top class. One particular shot he hit in the first innings of his debut Test was an early demonstration of this. The ball from Mitchell Starc was short and quick, headed for Gill’s forehead; Gill saw it so early, and hit it so quickly, that the ball rocketed past even left of where the fielder at midwicket would have been — Gill’s eye and hands are very fast. The shot left him grinning happily like a young lad, which he is.
Gill’s cover-driving was exceptional, and his straight drives were a sight for sore eyes. His first runs in Test cricket, four, were scored with a lovely straight drive off Pat Cummins, sending the ball to the right of the man at mid-off with wristy skill.
Cummins, the world’s top Test bowler, plays with Gill at Kolkata Knight Riders, and knows him well enough to call him ‘Shubi’. Cummins was suitably impressed with Gill’s calmness on debut.
“Shubi looked good. You know he is quite a calm character, doesn’t seem too much fazed, looked quite settled in the first Test,” said Cummins today. “Looked similar to the way he plays, wants to take the game on when the bowlers provide opportunities.”
India’s other debutant, Mohammed Siraj, was impressive, too. He ran in fast and maintained top line and length, beating both the outside and inside edges of the bat — he got batsmen caught off the outside edge and lbw, and troubled them with the short ball, too. Ricky Ponting, the former Australian captain, was impressed.
“I have liked his aggression, he has been willing to use the short-ball. But the thing that I liked in the lead up to (Cameron) Green’s wicket and even when Tim Paine came to the crease, around the 55-60 over-mark, the ball started to swing,” said Ponting after the first innings.
“His (Siraj’s) wrist points have been good, his length has been good. He has had a lot of LBW shouts, obviously the wicket of Green, but he also had another review against Tim Paine, the ball was hitting the top of the stumps,” added Ponting.
The 26-year-old Siraj is battling personal tragedy as his father died last month. He stayed on in Australia after his mother told him: “Today dad has gone, tomorrow I will have to go, you will also have to someday. Dad always wanted you to play for India, so you stay there, and do that. Perform well for India.” He did just that.
Twenty years ago, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan made their India debut in the same match, in Kenya. They call each other “brother from another mother”.
Gill and Siraj debuted together in Tests for India, and both have a connect Yuvraj and Zaheer. Siraj has been getting advice from Zaheer, while Gill’s connect with Yuvraj has been long-term and deep.
Before this year’s IPL, Yuvraj had been practising at Mohali with Gill and other Punjab players.
Gill has been looking up to Yuvraj for a long time — Yuvraj told him to focus on cricket and nothing else, even as player agents began to hover around him. “Yuvraj didn’t want me to sign with any player management company at the start of my career. He said ‘just go and play, forget about these things.’ I didn’t sign anyone,” Gill said last year.
Gill played in the IPL and in Australia with the logo “YWC” — for YouWeCan, Yuvraj’s charity for cancer patients — on his bat.
Yuvraj and Zaheer achieved much, and they’d like to see Gill and Siraj to do more — if that happens, it would be just wonderful for the Indian team.