Have abided by Dravid sir’s advice of sticking to playing natural game: Shubman Gill
Shubman Gill played a couple of ODIs for India earlier this year. (AFP Image)

His strokes bear a striking resemblance to Virat Kohli but Shubman Gill‘s approach to cricket is influenced by Rahul Dravid, who has asked the youngster to stick to his natural game come what may. Just two weeks shy of his 20th birthday, Gill is making waves despite having played just two ODIs with former captain Sourav Ganguly among those left surprised by his omission from India’s tour of the West Indies.

READ – Don’t think about pressure and expectations when I bat: Shubman Gill

The youngster spoke to PTI about handling the limelight, comparisons, “that cover drive” which resembles Kohli and pro-tips from the likes of Dravid and Yuvraj Singh in dealing with the hype surrounding him.

“Rahul sir has been my coach since the India U-19 days and then India A. There is one basic advice from him which I always keep in mind. He would tell me that come what may, never change your basic game that’s got you success,” said Gill, who became the youngest Indian to score a first-class double hundred earlier this month. “I would certainly rate my double hundred against the West Indies A as one of my best knocks in red ball (cricket) considering the opposition, surface and match situation.”

READ: India A one-day squads announced for South Africa A series, Pandey and Iyer to share captaincy duties

Gill also top-scored for India A in the unofficial one-day series against the same opposition, accumulating 218 runs, including three half-centuries. But what if his natural game doesn’t deliver the desired results?

“He (Dravid) said that if we want to get technically more solid, all the adjustments that we make should be within the confines of our basic game,” elaborated the right-hander, who won the BCCI’s Best Junior Cricketer award for consecutive years in 2013-14 and 2014-15. “Rahul sir told me that if I change my game, it won’t be natural anymore and may not offer success. His focus has always been on the mental make-up while we face the challenge posed by the best.”

The front-foot cover drives off spinners by Gill resemble a carbon copy of Kohli’s minimal backlift with strong wrists involved. The affable youngster said the stroke “comes naturally to him”.

“Because I have an attacking game against the spinners. Since childhood, I have practiced a lot against spin bowling. So while playing on turners, I developed this particular stroke,” said Gill. ” I love stepping out to spinners as that’s my game. I have a back and across trigger when I am facing the quick bowlers. With the South Africa A series coming up, I am focusing a lot on leaving deliveries.”

Reflecting on the recent A tour of the West Indies, Gill said the thought of saving matches hardly ever crosses his mind as he likes to focus on putting the team in a winning position.

“Actually, even when we lost quick wickets, it didn’t strike me or my partner (Hanuma Vihari) that we need to save the match. All we were thinking was how to change the course,” Gill said. “During that innings (his double hundred), the first plan was to see off the remainder of the third day. The next day, the pitch had some juice, so the first session was important. The next plan was to score 120 off the next 30 overs as their bowlers would be getting a little tired.”

Gill won the Player-of-the-Series award during the List A games in the Caribbean for his three fifties and now wants three-figure knocks against the South Africa A side during upcoming home series starting next week. His feet rooted firmly to the ground despite all the accolades coming his way, Gill said he is never bothered about what’s being said about him when he takes the field to bat.

“The A series in Windies was a confidence-booster and I am looking forward to converting the knocks into bigger scores against South Africa A,” he said. “It’s only when you are off the field that you come to know about what’s being said about you. Once you enter the field, these things fade out. You only think about opposition and ways to win matches,” he said.

So amid all the hullabaloo, how does he switch off?

“Playing squash with my India A teammate Ishan Kishan. I have started enjoying the game and it’s good for cardio also. It’s an easy and enjoyable game if both players are at the same level. Aap ko bhi bahot Zyada naahin aata, usko bhi bahot zyada nahin aata, toh muqabla acha hota hain (if both are not that great, the competition is good),” he laughed.

Unimaginable money (he was picked for Rs 1.8 crore by Kolkata Knight Riders in the last IPL auctions), instant stardom, an Indian cricketer’s life is always on the fast lane. Gill understands the pressures of it and credits former India cricketer Yuvraj for helping him handle the off-the-field aspects.

“Yuvi paaji gives me a lot of advice about handling pressure, fame and adulation. In the Punjab team, I confide a lot in my senior Gurkeerat Singh Mann. And obviously, any for life decision, I always look up to my dad,” Gill said.