‘Smoothman’ Gill: India’s new run machine

Published February 3, 2023
AHMEDABAD: Indian opener Shubman Gill celebrates after scoring a century during the third Twenty20 International against New Zealand at the Narendra Modi Stadium.—AFP
AHMEDABAD: Indian opener Shubman Gill celebrates after scoring a century during the third Twenty20 International against New Zealand at the Narendra Modi Stadium.—AFP

NEW DELHI: Shubman Gill’s prowess as an opener was never in doubt, but his first Twenty20 ton has got people talking about him as the next Virat Kohli, an all-format run machine for India.

Gill scored 126 in just 63 balls in a crushing 168-run series-clinching win over a hapless New Zealand on Wednesday. It was just his sixth T20 appearance.

Despite being gifted with all the shots, the 23-year-old has not yet cemented a place for India in all formats, playing no part in last year’s T20 World Cup.

Gill hit a match-winning Test ton in Bangladesh in December and his maiden ODI double-hundred in January.

That knock gained him the moniker of “Smoothman Gill” — for his free-flowing shot-making — from batting great Sunil Gavaskar.

T20 skipper Hardik Pandya praised Gill after the pair put on 103 runs for the fourth wicket in India’s 234-4, which paved the way for the biggest T20 win between two Test teams.

“He will achieve greater heights in his career for sure because of not what he did today but because of his work ethic and the honesty towards his game,” Pandya told the Indian cricket board’s website.

Gill’s unbeaten knock, laced with 12 fours and seven sixes, was the highest T20 score by an Indian, overtaking Kohli’s 122 not out.

Gill also became only the fifth Indian batsman — including Kohli and current captain Rohit Sharma — to record centuries across all three formats. “He has come of age,” former India opener Wasim Jaffer told ESPNCricinfo.

“There was no denying the fact that he had conquered Test (cricket) a little bit, One-Day for sure. Today’s knock proves what a fantastic player India has found.”

Jaffer added: “He is a three-format player and after Virat Kohli he is the next big batter that’s going to come good.”

Gill had put New Zealand’s bowling to the sword in the preceding ODIs as well, scoring 360 runs — the joint-most in a bilateral three-match series, alongside Pakistan skipper Babar Azam.

“When you are representing your country, I don’t think there is any kind of fatigue,” Gill said after his T20 masterclass at the world’s biggest cricket ground in Ahmedabad.

“I always wanted to play for India and being fortunate enough to play all the three formats, it is a blessing.”

Later in a chat with Pandya, the young batsman, who hails from a family of farmers in the northern state of Punjab, said he owed much of his success to his father.

“I think the way I practise and the way my dad made me practise… 90 percent of the credit should to go to him because it was his vision,” said Gill.

The batsman has played 13 Tests, 21 ODIs and six T20 matches for India since his first 50-over match against New Zealand at Hamilton in January 2019.

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2023

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