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A peep into the future as Gill, Shafali and ‘DK’ hint at greatness to come

Shubman Gill. File  

Three relative newcomers from India impressed in England last week. In Southampton, opener Shubman Gill played his inaugural Test in England like a veteran of many innings there.

He was confident, untroubled, peaceful (a word not usually associated with sportsmen performing on the field).

Class

And he pulled the short rising delivery from the New Zealand fast bowlers between mid-wicket and mid-on after getting on top of the bounce — there’s class right there for you.

Gill made only 28 before he was caught behind; a pull off the front foot against Trent Boult vying with a straight drive off Kyle Jamieson for the best of his boundaries.

Watching Gill bat brings back memories of the early Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli.

Not in the way he bats, although there are similarities in the way he brings his bottom hand into play, but in the way he promises to carry India’s batting on his shoulders like them.

Every generation needs a player around whom the batting revolves; there is a straight line from Sunil Gavaskar to Tendulkar to Kohli, and Gill seems equipped to extend that line.

Early days yet

These are early days yet, and Gill will have to display both the responsibility and the longevity of the other three, but the signs are encouraging at this stage.

Gill top-scored with 91 in India’s memorable run chase in Brisbane earlier this year — it was only his third Test — having made 50 and 31 in Sydney in the previous Test and 45 and 35 not out in Melbourne on debut.

A first century might start a sequence and take him over the line that separates the good from the great. Tendulkar’s first century came in his ninth Test, Kohli’s in his eighth.

Gill might be the batsman to watch in the England series following the final of the World Test Championship.

The focus on India’s bowling heroes and the blossoming of Rishabh Pant among the batsman has allowed Gill to do his stuff quietly in the background without undue pressure.

High expectations

Expectations have always been high, though, after he made a triple century in an under-16 match and later 268 against Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy as a 19-year-old. In between, he was player-of-the-tournament at the Under-19 World Cup, so there is an inevitability about his progress.

Beyond his game, Gill has, unusually for an international player and one so young, displayed a social consciousness in his tweets. A future India captain, perhaps?

A second newcomer in England caught the eye in Bristol. Shafali Verma said hello to Test cricket with innings of 96 and 63 as India drew the women’s Test after following on.

The last time India played a Test, Shafali was 10 years old. Soon she was disguising herself as a boy to attend camps in Rohtak, Haryana, where girls were actively prevented from taking up sport. Luckily Shafali’s father encouraged her, and at 15 she was good enough to play for India. That was two years ago, when she broke Tendulkar’s record as the youngest Indian to score an international fifty.

It is not unusual for contemporary players to be compared with players of the past. It helps to understand the more recent performer.

In fact, it is a two-way street, allowing those of an earlier generation to fix a current talent in their minds while giving younger fans an insight into an earlier player.

Comparison

There is something about Gill that has already invited comparison with Barry Richards for his on-side play. A more accessible comparison might be with Dilip Vengsarkar, a stylish batsman, tall and elegant while driving.

Shafali’s natural sense of timing and reliance on her eye rather than solely on footwork immediately brought to mind Virender Sehwag who could drive the ball through the narrowest of gaps in the field or send it racing with what looked like the gentlest of pushes.

The third star to emerge is the commentator Dinesh Karthik, who has channelled his natural exuberance beautifully and has worked out the balance between the technical and the anecdotal, side-stepping cliche and platitude, and communicating his sheer delight to the viewers.

‘DK’ is only 36, and as he pointed out, still an active player. But already he is the most promising commentator to emerge since Harsha Bhogle made his mark in Australia three decades ago. It’s been a long wait!

Fit to be alongside the best

Television’s insistence on appointing only internationals has given us some insufferable commentators (no names!), but here’s an international fit to be compared with the best in the world.

There is a joy in discovering promising youngsters and then watching them live up to that promise. India have had great players, both men and women, but few great commentators.

It’s all coming together in England this season. There’s much to look forward to.


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Printable version | Jul 31, 2021 3:49:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/a-peep-into-the-future-as-gill-shafali-and-dk-hint-at-greatness-to-come/article34919950.ece

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