Five years ago, on a humid April afternoon, Lakwinder Singh Gill watched his son Shubman bat almost the whole day against Amritsar in a Punjab Inter-District U-16 Markhan Trophy at the MCA Ground in Mohali. Gill scored 351 during a record 587-run opening partnership with Nirmal Singh and got out with four balls remaining in the day.
The senior Gill had some encouraging words for the youngster.
“‘You should have batted with patience for the last four balls and 400 was yours’, I told him after the knock,” the father reminisced on Thursday after Shubman made it to the Indian Test squad for the first time. “As a kid, he loved batting and it was the only rash shot he played that day. He faced 272 balls for that knock and hit 49 boundaries. He has got the hunger for runs and to see him bat in Indian Test team colours will be dream for him and the whole family.
The then 14-year-old Gill would amass 1,018 runs at 92.54 from seven matches in Punjab’s winning campaign in the U-16 Vijay Merchant Trophy in the 2014-2015 season, where he smashed a century in each innings against Bengal in the semifinal and another against Madhya Pradesh in the final at Cuttack.
The youngster won BCCI’s best U-16 cricketer award for the second year in succession that season before Gill would amass more than 500 runs in the 2015-2016 Cooch Behar trophy. While Gill had scored runs as an opener before, he hit an unbeaten 263 against Tamil Nadu at Patiala in the Cooch Behar Trophy.
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“I had heard about his partnership along with Nirmal in an U-16 match. When I first saw him in the U-19 Punjab team, I remember I talked to other coaches about his control and calmness. He would never get tired at the nets and would always call us again and again for advice. That knock against Tamil Nadu made him believe in his ability,” says Munish Bali, now the Punjab head coach.
The last two years have seen Gill becoming the hero for India in the U-19 world Cup last year, where he amassed 372 runs in six matches, including a century against Pakistan in the semifinals. He scored a 728 runs at an average of 104, including a double century (268) against Tamil Nadu during the last Ranji season.
Last year, Gill also scored 365 runs during the India A tour to England. Gill, who smashed 90 runs for India A against South Africa earlier this week, was also man of the series in the India A-West Indies A unofficial ODI series. He became the youngest Indian to score a double century in first-class cricket when he hit 204 against West Indies A recently.
Prior to the West Indies tour, Gill practised with wet tennis balls at the PCA Stadium, Mohali to prepare for the bounce in Caribbean pitches. “During his maiden ODI tour, Shubman could not score much and was dropped. He was disappointed about his form in New Zealand but knew that he had to start the process again to achieve his dream. Coming as an opener for Kolkata Knight Riders this season helped his confidence a lot,” said the senior Gill.