Shubman Gill blushes as you talk about the hype around him ever since India won the U-19 World Cup in February 2018. “I try not to think about it. I just focus on my training,” he said. An expected answer from a 20-year-old, but as you get talking about his journey, you find composure beyond his years.
Shubman got serious about playing cricket at the age of seven when he saw India lift the World T20 trophy in 2007. His earliest impression of cricket was watching Sachin Tendulkar drive straight down the ground. “I don’t remember much but I do recall the straight drive Sachin sir used to play. I was fascinated by it,” Shubman told TOI.
As Shubman grew in stature, his cover drive has started resembling Virat Kohli’s. “I have my role models. I try to follow the work ethics of Virat bhaiya but I know every player is different and you can’t copy anyone,” he set the record straight. “I know I can hit from the first ball. But I also know how to play long knocks. It depends on the situation. These days, you have to have the ability to hit from the word go.”
The Test call-up on Thursday is not unexpected, as he has gone about piling runs across formats in recent times. For a young boy, fighting the anxiety is always tough. “It does cross my mind sometimes but I am playing so much cricket around the year that it doesn’t allow me to think about it constantly. The ‘A’ tours have helped me get ready to make the transition as an India player,” he reckoned.
For Shubman, the major transition happened when he was 17 and got into a Punjab team that had in its ranks Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh – heroes of that 2007 World T20 campaign. “I tried not to get overawed by them. They were very helpful. Yuvi paa is my inspiration. His journey, his struggles with his health and the way he looks at the game is so inspirational. That has helped me so much to get ready for the top grade of cricket.”
Then there is Rahul Dravid who has spent the bulk of the last two years with Shubman. Dravid has been vocal about overall development of a young player. Shubman, for one, is aware of the system. “Rahul sir has always talked about being a good human being. I haven’t cleared my Class XII exams yet because they coincide with my cricket engagements. But I would love to complete my basic education,” he asserted.
That said, Shubman’s journey has always been all about cricket. His parents moved to Chandigarh from Jalalabad so that he could pursue cricket as career. “My parents never put any pressure on me about my studies. My father saw some spark in me when I was seven and then it was decided that I should come to Chandigarh. They made a lot of adjustments and sacrifices,” Shubman said, his voice getting heavier.
“I go to my father whenever I feel uncomfortable, although I don’t get much time to share everything. He keeps the tab on the money I earn. He ensures that I don’t get carried away or distracted by the fame and money I have already got because of IPL.”