Player of the Under-19 World Cup in 2018. Run-machine in domestic cricket. X-factor player for Kolkata Knight Riders. And now in the next few weeks Shubman Gill could well be a Test match player for India. During the Duleep Trophy in Bengaluru in August, the 20-year old took time off to chat about batting, the importance of being calm and those who have played a big part in his formative years.
What has been your biggest learning been since the Under-19 World Cup?
I'm clear in my head that your game doesn't change, it's just the mindset that changes. At the Under-19 level, you are on level footing with every other player, whereas at the senior level, you face a lot of experienced cricketers. I can't play with the same mindset because playing someone at 125kph and someone at 140kph is a completely different experience. That is where the IPL has helped immensely.
How do you adapt?
It's just about calculating the situations, assessing what the team needs, and how your decisions will affect or benefit the team at a certain time. You have to take risks at times. My mindset is such that I don't think about what will happen if I play a certain shot and get out. You have to be calm to make decisions under pressure.
You seem to be calm by nature. Has it always been that way?
I am calm, but it's also something I've learnt from my father - he had the patience and calmness to keep throwing 200-300 balls in the nets when I was a kid. From my early days, Under-14 and Under-16 days, I've played a lot of days' cricket, so temperamentally I adjusted to it very early. From there on, my mindset has been such that if I am set and batting on 100, I have to convert it into a big one, and shouldn't play any loose shots. Then when I graduated to the Punjab senior team, I was glad to be able to spend some time with Yuvraj Singh and Gurkeerat Singh. They have guided me along the way too.
What has Yuvraj's biggest advice to you been?
He has been through so many challenges in his career, and his support and chats with me have been massively helpful. He's spoken to me about keeping my focus on cricket and let other aspects of professional life (endorsements, player management) aside. Guidance is very important in these aspects. Yuvraj didn't want me to sign with any player management company at the start of my career. He said 'just go and play, forget about these things. I didn't sign anyone.
"I'm calm, but it's also something I've learnt from my father - he had the patience and calmness to keep throwing 200-300 balls at the nets when I was a kid"
How have your interactions with different coaches shaped you?
Before my age-group [days], it was mostly my father who doubled up as my coach. Then in age-group cricket, I was guided by Munish Bali. I've been fortunate to spend time with Amol Muzumdar sir at the NCA and Rahul Dravid sir at the Under-19 India level. Their experience and guidance has been valuable.
What is your father's biggest advice to you?
He likes to keep it simple. He doesn't talk technique. He only tells me to not lose my focus. If I'm battling out a good spell, he says ensure you see it off so that when he's tired, you're there to score runs.
What's your approach to batting?
I like to be aggressive but it is very important for one to understand as to what time you have to be aggressive and when you should temper your game and get through a spell when the bowler is on top.
Which shot do you like playing the most?
I have a number of shots (laughs), but I enjoy the cover drive and pull shot.
Are you thinking cricket all the time even when off the field?
I know you will have more bad days than good, so you have to be balanced. Sometimes I think a lot when I have had a bad day. On the field, you have to be switched on all the time. If you'd asked me this question two years ago, I would have said 'yes, I think a lot', but over time, I have changed.
"Personally, before going to sleep the night before, I visualise, I imagine facing up to those bowlers and playing my favourite shots"
Tell us about your ODI debut in New Zealand earlier this year.
I was very excited, but I was nervous too. But as I played the first ball, the nerves calmed down. When the team was announced, I was very happy to know I was playing finally.
Do you use visualisation techniques?
Before every match, we have meetings where we analyse videos of bowlers we're likely to face. Personally, before going to sleep the night before, I visualise, I imagine facing up to those bowlers and playing my favourite shots.
How has the change in fitness and emphasis on yo-yo tests changed your outlook?
I'm getting to know my body really well. I didn't have much knowledge about it earlier, like what suits my body may not suit someone else. Diet, fitness routines - knowledge about these things have improved tremendously.