India vs England: Shubman Gill walks the extra mile to dispel own doubts

Day of the Indian batters as captain Rohit Sharma chips in with another century

Shubman Gill in action (photo: BCCI)
Shubman Gill in action (photo: BCCI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The second day of the final Test at Dharamsala belonged to Indian batters for a variety of reasons. If captain Rohit Sharma showed the intent of taking his Test batting seriously with his second century in the series, debutant Devdutt Padikkal and Sarfaraz Khan were impressive on what looked like a true batting surface – but it was Shubman Gill who really decided to challenge himself.

The scorecard says Gill, often regarded as the heir apparent to Virat Kohli, scored his second three-figure knock in this absorbing series – but it’s the process that has gone behind it is bound to come up for discussion. A social media photo which went viral about a week back showed Gill sweating it out alone at the nets at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium in Mohali even as members of both teams were making the most of a nearly 10-day downtime between the Ranchi and Dharamsala Test.

It was a ritual which harks back in time to an era of classicists like a Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid – and it’s an educated guess that his father, who had been his first coach and mentor – may have had a role behind it. Lakhwinder Gill, who was present at the stands on Friday, wore a proud expression as Shubman – now a young veteran in the Indian set-up – was candid in his admission to the broadcasters after the day’s play.

‘’This was my father’s vision, he would be proud of my performance today. The ball wasn’t doing much at the start and instinctively I wanted to put Anderson under pressure. I feel good every time I go out with the bat. I missed out on a big one but I’m feeling good,’’ a satisfied Gill said after an innings of 110 studded with 12 fours and five sixes. The 171-run partnership between the captain and Gill, their first-century stand, put India in a virtually invincible position from where the match only swung one way.

If the precocious Yashasvi Jaiswal stood tall among a slew of solid batting performances by India in the last two months, it’s definitely the spirit of a healthy competition which could have driven Gill to walk that extra mile to gain his rightful position back. After being around in international cricket for more than four years on a regular basis, the mild-mannered Gill is hardened enough to know how they walk a thin line between praise and panning - and he did not leave anything to chance in what would be the last Test in quite a few months this year.

Barely two Tests back, his position at No.3 came in for some criticism when he failed to build on good starts – but Gill has now turned it back, and how. An aggregate of 400-plus runs in the series, including two centuries and the way he attacked the wily James Anderson on Friday left nothing to doubt that the Gill of 2023 is fit and firing again.

Gill looked sharp and focused from the start when he came out to bat after Yashasvi was dismissed on day one in Dharamsala. The new Gujarat Titans captain reached his half-century in the 39th over after only 64 deliveries. In the 59th over, he hit a slog sweep off Shoaib Bashir's bowling to reach 100. There are few better sights in modern cricket than a Gill in full flow and those at the HPCA Stadium on Friday had their value for money – first with an epic partnership between Rohit and Gill and then the newcomers!

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