Dubai: When Shubhman Gill, the 21-year-old opening batsman of Kolkata Knight Riders, comes out to bat in the Indian Premier League 2020, there is a certain buzz in the commentary box these days. Even the legendary Sunil Gavaskar cannot stop gushing about the purity of his cricketing strokes in the T20 format, often going to praising the humility in the young man.
It’s not easy to be billed as the main Indian batsman in a high profile franchise as the KKR at his age, with stardom beckoning him with Cornerstone Sports - the portfolio management company of Indian skipper Virat Kohli - already signing him as a good investment. Three years down the line after being initiated into franchise cricket - and even after making his debut in the senior Indian team last year - Gill has managed to retain a refreshing humility and stay focused on the job at hand.
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"Such attention is welcome, but it doesn’t bring any pressure to me. I try to do my job to the best of my ability," remarked Gill a day after KKR kept their nerves for a vital 10-run win over Chennai Super Kings in Abu Dhabi. Now third in the league table, the Purple Shirts seem very much in the running for a play-off berth in IPL 2020.
Speaking to Gulf News in an exclusive interview, Gill said he was very happy with the way their campaign had been panning out. "The way we won such a close match shows the character of the team and our belief in the team. I am very happy with the way it’s been going so far," he said.
Gill was roped in by KKR in 2018 following his eye-catching performance in the Under-19 World Cup which India won in New Zealand under the captaincy of Prithvi Shaw. The early glimpses of promise led to endless discussion about his ideal position in the batting order by the KKR fans as well as media - with most feeling he should bat high up in the order to get more deliveries.
The issue was finally resolved by the team management this year as he is playing the opener’s role from the first game. In five innings so far, he has an aggregate of 163 with an unbeaten 70 off 62 balls against Sunrisers Hyderabad being his best effort so far. In other matches, he has been getting the starts but has failed to convert them - though he is not unduly fussed about it.
"See, T20 is such a game that you have to take risks to help your team get to a huge total. I don’t really plan to have a big one like that as long as my efforts are helping the team," he said.
Interestingly, his innings of 70, reveals a data study - is the fourth-highest score in T20 cricket with no false shots. AB de Villiers’ blistering 100 not out off 50 balls for Rangpur in 2018 Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) remains on top of the list. However, Gill’s innings where he faced 62 deliveries, became the longest innings in T20 history to not include a false shot as the youngster didn’t edge or miss even a single delivery.
Gill recorded a timing rating of 195, according to Cricviz Data – the highest-ever in IPL. He surpassed the likes of Hashim Amla (171), Rishabh Pant (163) and Kane Williamson (150) among others as the youngster comfortably paced his innings as per the situation of the game.
As a batsman who is technically so correct, how does he adapt to the needs of the T20 game? "My natural style of batting is attacking, while technique comes naturally to me. I don’t think about it separately," he says.
Gill was inducted by KKR alongwith his two other Under-19 India teammates: fast bowlers Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagakotti - but it’s only this year that the trio of them had been playing in tandem. While Mavi had managed to make some inroads in the team last year, Nagarkotti had been sidelined with a stress fracture for the last two years. "It’s really a great feeling to be in the ground with them. The vibes are just great and we hope to continue in this vein," the Punjab batsman added.