Shubman Gill has hit the headlines after being awarded the Player of the Tournament prize for his dominance with the bat in the recently concluded Under-19 Cricket World Cup held in New Zealand. India were crowned world champions after defeating Australia in the final and Gill was most instrumental with the bat in the victorious journey of the Indian team. The right-handed batsman from Punjab scored 372 runs in six matches with an average of 124. After returning to India, he is busy playing for the Punjab state team in the domestic one-day tournament Vijay Hazare Trophy. On Saturday, after the completion of the Punjab-Baroda match at Alur, Karnataka, Shubman gave time to Sportswallah.com over the phone to speak about his journey and his dream.
Here are the excerpts:
Sportswallah (SW): How did your journey in cricket start?
Shubman Gill (SG): I was born in Hazilka, Punjab. I was fascinated with the cricket bat and ball from my very childhood. My father Lakhwinder Singh is very enthusiastic about cricket. He prepared a turf pitch at our farmland and used to give me throw-downs. It was he who decided to encourage me to become a professional cricketer. We soon moved to Mohali so that I had a better practice facility. I scored plenty of runs for Punjab in junior cricket. I was adjudged best BCCI’s best Junior cricketer in Under-14 age group in 2013-14 and in Under-16 age group in 2014-15. My consistency with the bat perhaps impressed the national selectors and I was included in the India Under-19 team.
SW: What was the mantra behind your success in New Zealand at the World Cup?
SG: Well, I used to play at Mohali where the wicket is generally fast and that helped me a lot to be ready for playing on the surfaces in New Zealand. I didn’t have to do anything special to prepare for the extra bit of bounce that I had to manage in New Zealand.
SW: You played brilliantly against Pakistan. Was there any special message from the chief coach Rahul Dravid as playing against Pakistan has always been considered to be the biggest challenge for any cricketer from India?
SG: Dravid sir just said if you can perform well in this match you will be remembered always. But, if you fail, you may be criticised. Sir though advised me not to listen to the negative comments. He instructed to play my natural game. And I only followed his instruction.
SW: After scoring the century against Pakistan, even a legend like Harbhajan Singh could not suppress his joy. How do you feel about it?
SG: It was a great achievement for me as a veteran player and legend like Harbhajan Singh tweeted about me. I was thrilled. At the same time, I was motivated to do better on the field.
SW: In the Punjab state team, you get to play with another legend, Yuvraj Singh. Can you share your experience of spending time with Yuvraj?
SG: He is a great human being. Yuvi paaji is always there to help the young cricketers. Before the World Cup, I spent time at the National Cricket Academy at Bengaluru. Yuvi Paaji was also training there. He used to watch my batting after his training and helped a lot by giving me valuable tips. He is known for his grounded on-drives. He advised me not to play lofted shots as I got out many times by playing lofted shot in the U-14 and U-19 matches. He told me to play grounded shots and not to take many chances in the initial part of my innings. I followed his instruction and the result is in front of everybody.
SW: In a recent interview, you revealed your fascination about Indian captain Virat Kohli…
SG: He is my favourite cricketer. I love to watch Kohli Paaji playing cover drives and I tried to emulate this shot. My father used to bowl fast at the nets and I tried to play like Virat.
SW: What was the `X’ factor in the India Under-19 team?
SG: Seven to eight players of our team have already played First-Class cricket for their respective state teams. That helped a lot. Yes, World Cup is very different from First-Class cricket but we came to know how to fight it till the end by playing Ranji Trophy matches. It was a big moral booster for us. On the other hand, every match in the World Cup was telecasted on television and that was a motivation for us. Rahul sir told us that if we do well, the whole world will come to know about us.
SW: You will get to play the Indian Premiere League (IPL) this year as you were picked by Kolkata Knight Riders from the auction. Your reaction…
SG: It was a very precious moment for me to be picked by any IPL team in the auction. I dreamt that I will get chance to play in this IPL. The KKR franchise have shown their faith on me. Now it’s my turn to deliver. I am quite confident to do well.