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Feature

The rapid rise of Shubman Gill, from the Under-19s to a Test debut at the MCG

All you need to know about the newest face at the top of the order for India in Test cricket

Nagraj Gollapudi
25-Dec-2020
Shubman Gill connects with a pull, Australia A vs Indians, Tour game, Sydney, 2nd day, December 12, 2020

Shubman Gill's coaches have been impressed by the youngster's understanding of his game  •  EPA

India Test Cap No. 297. That will be Shubman Gill, who will make his Test debut at the MCG in India's second Test on the four-Test tour of Australia. Here's the lowdown on Gill, who was recently picked by experts in The Cricket Monthly as one of the youngsters to watch out for in the next decade.
The first headline
Gill, 21, hails from the northern Indian state of Punjab. In 2018, he announced himself to the cricket world, playing a major role in India's win at the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand, where he also finished as the Player of the Tournament, batting at No. 3.
He is good at
"Straight bat. High Elbow. Head still. Getting on top of the bounce." Recently, former India opener Wasim Jaffer ticked all those skillsets in praise of Gill on Twitter. With his classical technique and fluent strokeplay, Gill has attracted attention from many greats including Sunil Gavaskar, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar.
Coaches who have worked with Gill have pointed out he has that one quality great batsman possess: the extra time to play a shot. That allows him to improvise late and better. His solid forward and backward defence also mean his basics are strong. Scoring at a fast clip is among his strengths, but Gill likes to play mostly along the ground, something he quickly inculcated into his game under Dravid, who was the India A and Under-19 coach.
The quick rise
In the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy, Gill scored 728 runs in just nine innings at an average of 104. Dravid had drafted Gill into the India A set-up to fast-track his progression. Former India allrounder and his senior Punjab team-mate Yuvraj Singh had then said: "He (Gill) is a special talent. After a long time there is a young guy whose batting I like to watch. He is very exciting." Singh had also said Gill should be drafted into the Indian team after the 2019 World Cup.
The maiden national call-up
Gill did not have to wait as long as Singh had imagined. In January 2019, less then a year after the Under-19 World Cup, Gill was about to head to bed when he got the national call-up as one of the two replacements for the New Zealand limited-overs series after Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul had been suspended by the BCCI. Gill played two ODIs but did not cross single digits in either game.
Later that year, he would go on to take the Player of the Series award in the ODIs for India A on the tour of the Caribbean. However, he admitted to being disappointed when the selectors did not name him in the India squads for the tour of the Caribbean.
He would erase the disappointment by blasting an unbeaten 204 off 248 balls - rescuing India A from 14 for 3 - in the four-day match against West Indies A. On his return to India, he would once again help India A, this time as captain, with a match-winning 90 against South Africa A. A week from then, Gill earned his maiden call-up to the Indian Test squad for the home series against South Africa.
The strengths
The coaches who have worked with him have said they've been impressed by the youngster's understanding of his game. That is what prompted Brendon McCullum, currently the coach at the Kolkata Knight Riders, to include Gill as part of the team's leadership group. Gill's responsibility was to help newcomers settle down while acting as a channel between them and the management.
What they said...
"Gee, I was impressed with Gill. I really think he's got something about him, his technique."
Former Australia captain Allan Border, having watched Gill in the two practice matches Indians played against Australia A.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo