A heady mixture of silken grace and dollops of brute power has always defined Punjab school of batsmanship and the latest to have emerged from that stable is 18-year-old Shubman Gill.
With an aggregate of 341 runs in the ongoing U-19 World Cup, the teenager from nondescript town of Fazilka in Punjab’s Ferozepur district has been the centre of attention, even more than the highly-rated skipper Prithvi Shaw.
Strapping with sinewy wrists, Shubman’s exciting strokeplay has earned him eyeballs and no wonder he went to Kolkata Knight Riders for a bid of Rs 1.8 crore at the IPL auction.
It was around 10 days ago when India were playing their second group league game of the World Cup against Zimbabwe at Mount Maunganui, Shubman pulled rival pacer N Nungu for a six over deep mid-wicket.
It was a short-arm jab but more interestingly there was an eerie similarity with a stroke that Virat Kohli had hit during his innings of 150 against England in an ODI in Pune, last January.
In fact, the BCCI’s official website compared both the strokes and it spoke about the skill and swagger which have been the hallmark of all great players hailing from North India.
During the days of Mohinder Amarnath and Navjot Sidhu — Punjab batting was more about grit and power but Yuvraj Singh married both.
And now it seems that Shubman is ready to carry that legacy forward.
And none other than his senior Punjab team captain Harbhajan Singh, who feels that he has got everything to succeed at the highest level.
“Obviously, the more he plays quality bowling, he will improve. He will play in different conditions, go through phases where he would know how to score runs in difficult conditions. But make no mistake, I have seen 18-year-old Yuvraj Singh from close quarters, Shubman is as talented as Yuvraj,” Harbhajan gave a fair assessment about the youngster.
“His biggest advantage is that he has strokes that all modern day players would like to have. He can hit Dilscoop (the lap shot made famous by TM Dilshan), he can hit the ramp shot (guiding over thirdman), inside out lofted shot.
“And the toughest of them all — the pull in-front of square. Pulling through deep square leg is not difficult but you need to be tall with supple wrists to keep the ball down while pulling in-front of square. Shubman has that,” says the veteran of 100 plus Test matches.
In fact, Shubman himself said that he would like to play all formats when former England opener Robert Key interviewed him.
“Adaptability is the key and I would like to play all three formats.”
Coming from an affluent family with plethora of farmland, the legend has it that Shubman’s father Lakhwinder Singh had constructed a turf pitch on his farmland, where little Shubman practised during his early days.
However when it was realised that he is above average, his father decided to move to Mohali, where he could get state of the art coaching and hone his skills further.
Just like Prithvi Shaw, Shubman has scored tons of runs in age-group cricket but unlike Prithvi who was tracked by the Mumbai media from the age of 12, Shubman only gained prominence after a successful tour of England with the India U-19s.
A lot of people don’t know that Shubman has twice been awarded BCCI’s ‘Best Junior Cricketer’ (U-14 and U-16) award’ in 2013-14 and 2014-15 but unlike Mumbai where it is ensured that their talented boys are known to the national media, the coverage of the upcoming talent is not as intense in northern part of the country.
While Prithvi is a product of Mumbai brilliant cricket system, Shubman is a product of a sporty father’s dream to see his son in national colours.
Such was his talent that he was picked by the senior India selectors to play the U-23 emerging tournament in Bangladesh but he missed out due to a side strain.
“We fully supported him for achieving his dream to become a cricketer. We dedicated 15 years on him to enable him become a world class cricketer. We even left our work and skipped several family functions including marriage ceremonies of our relatives so we could dedicate as much time as we could on him,” said father Lakhwinder, who is now based at Mohali.
Their efforts have bore fruit.
The smiling assassin of bowlers is getting ready for bigger things and future looks all bright.