When the time comes, Shubman Gill is expected to carry the torch forward, just as Virat Kohli did when Sachin Tendulkar was the iconic star of Indian batting. The young opener, who has had an outstanding start to 2023, added a new accomplishment when he scored his first T20I century against New Zealand in the series finale, which India won by a commanding 168 runs to win 2-1. The highest individual score by an Indian in T20I matches was Virat Kohli’s 122 against Afghanistan six months ago in the UAE as Gill remained unbeaten on 126 from 63 balls.
The Gill-Kohli link is not brand-new. Gill earned his India debut under Kohli in an ODI against New Zealand back in 2019, and Virat was the one who spoke with Shubman after the 23-year-old crushed an incredible 208 last month in Hyderabad. There is nothing new about the friendship between Kohli and Gill. R Sridhar, a former fielding coach for India, used a specific instance to illustrate Kohli’s drive and passion for excellence. Gill could not avoid Kohli’s contagious intensity during fielding practice since he was in beast mode.
“In March 2021, we were in Ahmedabad for the third of 4 Tests against England. It was our first citing of the Narendra Modi Stadium, which would be hosting only the 2nd Day-Night Test in India. We were not guaranteed a place in the final of the World Test Championship (WTC), so a lot was riding on this match. Much debate had been generated by how the color of the seats, many of which would be unoccupied due to the restrictions necessitated by the pandemic, could offer a difficult backdrop against which to cite the pink ball,” Sridhar wrote in his book ‘Coaching Beyond’.
Only one month had passed since the Gabba Test in Brisbane, where Gill’s brilliant 91-ball century helped India win the famous series and keep the Border-Gavaskar trophy. Gill was supposed to take the next big step in Indian cricket going into the home series, but he fell short of doing so. James Anderson exposed Gill’s batting style after he scored just 119 runs in four Test matches with a top score of 50. However, when it came to the Ahmedabad Test, he didn’t need to look further than Kohli for motivation, even if it wasn’t directly related to batting.
“Virat knew he could not control anything else beyond being ready for the unexpected. So, he tucked me aside for a fielding session in the twilight under a not-so-ideal backdrop of orange chairs that dotted the stands, taking close to an unbelievable 200 catches. And that too, the night before a Test match. Shubman Gill, who was looking on from a distance, eventually got so tired of watching that he too decided to join in the fun,” added Sridhar.
“Virat smiled at him cheekily and said, ‘I am giving you 10 years in age, young man. The least you can do is take a few catches yourself.’ The session only ended when, in exasperation, the manager came out to inform him that the rest of the squad was ready and good to go and that the team bus was leaving for the hotel in 10 minutes.”