'Even Pujara didn't get such a cushion' - Anil Kumble lashes out at India youngster following dismal run of form
In cricket, the ebb and flow of a player's form often shapes the fate of a team. This is particularly true for Team India as they navigate through a phase of transition and generational change. The spotlight is on young Shubman Gill, whose performance in the recent Test against England has sparked a thoughtful analysis from former India spinner Anil Kumble.
India skipper Rohit Sharma recently made a pivotal decision to usher in Yashasvi Jaiswal into the Test setup, consequently shifting Shubman Gill to the No.3 batting position. This move, discussed in detail with head coach Rahul Dravid ahead of the West Indies series, aimed to bolster the team's batting line-up. While Jaiswal has seamlessly adapted to Test cricket, Gill's struggle to meet the expectations of a No.3 batter in the longest format has become a matter of concern.
In the 1st Test against England, Gill's struggles were starkly evident. Scoring a mere 23 off 66 balls in the first innings and succumbing to a two-ball duck in the second, his performance left much to be desired. With an average falling below 30 in 39 Test innings, the 24-year-old's form slump is a significant issue for Team India, particularly in light of their stunning defeat to Ben Stokes-led England.
Kumble, while speaking to JioCinema, offered a nuanced critique of Gill's technique and approach.
"He needs to be a lot freer. He needs to score runs. He needs to come up with his own plan of action to tackle spin, because he has hard hands. It’s good for good surfaces where the ball is coming on nicely and the faster bowlers are bowling at you. But when the ball is turning, when it’s slow, you need to use your hands and control and check your shots," he explained.
This observation underlines the necessity for Gill to adapt his game to diverse playing conditions, an essential skill for any top-order batter.
Anil Kumble wants Shubman Gill to work on his mindset
Kumble further emphasized the mental aspect of the game, suggesting that a change in mindset could be pivotal for Gill, especially under the guidance of a seasoned coach like Rahul Dravid.
“That’s something he needs to work on. It can’t be one flow all the time. Yes, four days before the next Test, can you work on your skill? I think it’s all the mindset. You can certainly work on your mindset, and you have the best possible person as the coach (Rahul Dravid) to manage that for Shubman Gill,” he added.
The situation is further complicated by the team selection dynamics. With the absence of Virat Kohli for the initial two Tests and the inclusion of Rajat Patidar in the squad, sidelining the likes of Sarfaraz Khan and Cheteshwar Pujara, the team composition has witnessed a notable shift. This context adds pressure on Gill, especially with Kohli's impending return in the 3rd Test. Kumble reflected on Pujara's situation, drawing parallels and setting expectations for Gill.
“He has been given the cushion perhaps even a Cheteshwar Pujara didn’t get, because although he (Pujara) has played over a 100 Tests, I keep coming back to him mainly because that was his place not too long ago. Pujara played in that World Test Championship final and post that, it’s been Shubman Gill, who’s been moving from the opener’s slot, and he himself wanted to bat at No. 3. So, when you want to bat at No. 3 especially in India because you have that talent, you certainly need to work on your game. He has the skills, he is young and he’s learning, but he needs to do it in Vizag, otherwise the pressure will be on him,” Kumble concluded.
As India gears up for the 2nd Test in Visakhapatnam, the team faces a critical juncture. The loss in the series opener by 28 runs has put them on the backfoot, and the performance in the upcoming Test will be crucial. For Shubman Gill, it's not just about scoring runs; it's about proving his mettle, adapting his game, and embracing the responsibility that comes with batting at No. 3. The guidance of Dravid and the wisdom of veterans like Kumble will be invaluable, but ultimately, it's Gill's time to shine or face the mounting pressure.