Knight now, king next
THE WEEK|November 01, 2020
Knight now, king next
Even as he waits to seal his berth in the national side, KKR opener Shubman Gill is being groomed for a bigger role
NEERU BHATIA

LONG BEFORE the schedule and venues for this year’s Indian Premier League were announced, Shubman Gill knew his role and brief. The 21-year-old would not only open for Kolkata Knight Riders, but he would also be groomed for a bigger role— that of a team leader.

Around the halfway mark of the tournament, the youngster is his team’s top scorer (311 runs), and is in contention to play for the Indian side that will tour Australia later in the year. Gill is part of the 20s class—a group of standout cricketers including England’s Tom Banton, 21, and Ollie Pope, 22, —which the cricketing world is eagerly following.

From playing a side role last season to being central to KKR’s plans this time around, Gill has earned a reputation quite quickly. Last year, captain Dinesh Karthik had drawn the ire of former India players such as Gautam Gambhir for sending Gill in at number seven in the batting order. The fact that Gill had scored three half-centuries made the decision even more baffling.

So, when former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum became KKR head coach in August 2019, one of his first declarations was that Gill would open. “Shubman is better suited at the top of the order,”he said after landing in Dubai this year. “He is a quality player, especially when the wickets are a bit tricky. When you have fast bowlers, you want your batsmen with the best technique, batsman-ship and craft, and he is certainly one of those guys. I am really impressed with the way he carries himself and plays the game. I feel he has a bit of presence about him even at this young age, [and he is] very respectful.”

KKR is not the only side to see his leadership potential. In 2019, national selectors made him captain of the India Blue side for the Duleep Trophy. Before that, he was vice-captain of the under 19 team that won the 2018 World Cup.

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November 01, 2020