Kolkata: All eyes will be on Shubman Gill when the young Indian opener takes a fresh guard - in more senses than one - for Kolkata Knight Riders in the second phase of IPL in the UAE later this month.
The Knights, who have based themselves in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi like last year, got down to their first practice session at the adjacent facility of Sheikh Zayed Stadium after completing their quarantine but Gill was conspicuous by his absence. Informed sources have revealed that the Punjab batsman is on the last leg of his rehab after the shin injury at National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru in India and would be ‘‘joining the team soon.’’
A video clip released by KKR sometime back on social media showed Gill, who will turn 22 on September 8, batting comfortably in a practice game at the NCA - apparently not betraying any signs of the shin pain which which forced him to pull out of the ongoing Test series against England. The last competitive match Gill played was the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand in June in Southampton.
It was in mid-August that he was ‘cleared’ to play the remainder of the IPL season in the UAE, but a lack of transparency prevailed about his injury in the initial phase. While media reports said he would be out of action for the entire Test series against England soon after the WTC final and that he was heading back home, BCCI confirmed the news much later in a statement: “Opening batsman Shubman Gill sustained a developing stress reaction on his left lower leg (shin) during the World Test Championship final. This was confirmed via an MRI scan. He is ruled out of the tour and has returned back to India.”
While the green signal from the NCA may have eased the KKR’s management’s worries somewhat, they will be certainly keeping an eye on the opener’s touch at the nets after coming out of an apparently serious injury. During the Indian leg of the IPL where the Knights failed to gather early momentum and were languishing at seventh position, Gill had scored 132 in seven matches but more than the aggregate, his inability to accelerate the run-rate had come in for some criticism.
Meanwhile, it was almost full house for the Knights on Saturday as most of the Indian players (barring the likes of Prasidh Krishna) have reported in the UAE - including veteran spinner Harbhajan Singh and Nitish Rana. Dinesh Karthik, former skipper and a member of the team’s brains trust, has joined the team from the UK where he made an impressive debut as a TV pundit and would be in quarantine.
The second leg of IPL 2021 will start from September 19 with defending champions Mumbai Indians taking on Chennai Super Kings in Dubai. KKR will open against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Abu Dhabi the next day.