Gill, 21, has been making all the right noises in the past three years, especially since the 2018 under-19 World Cup, where he was adjudged the Man of the Tournament for scoring 372 runs in six matches. He was vice-captain to Prithvi Shaw and was, importantly, one of the main architects of India’s triumph in New Zealand.
After the World Cup, he scored a whopping 728 runs in just nine matches at an average 104 in the 2018/19 Ranji Trophy season. His performances in domestic cricket and in India under-19 and India A tours have helped him garner praise from some of the biggest names in cricket.
“Gee, I was impressed with Gill. I really think he’s got something about him, his technique,” said former Australia captain Allan Border, whose surname makes up one half of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, after seeing Gill’s performances in the two practice matches that the visiting Indians played against Australia A ahead of the first Test last week.
Born in the Fazilka district of Punjab, along the India-Pakistan border on September 8, 1999, Gill scored a half century on Ranji Trophy debut in the 2017/18 season and followed that up with an attacking 129 in his next match. His performances led to batting great Rahul Dravid, then coach of the India A and u-19 sides, slotting him into the under-19 programme.
Gill’s international debut came in January 2019, much before his Punjab teammate Yuvraj Singh had predicted. Yuvraj had said that Gill would be drafted into the senior squad after the 2019 World Cup but suspensions to Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul led to Gill being called as one of the two emergency replacements for the Indian team during their ODI series in New Zealand. However, he failed to cross single digits in the two matches he played.
He was subsequently overlooked for India’s tour of West Indies but continued to impress for India A, smashing an unbeaten 204 off 248 balls in a four-day match against West Indies A in August 2019. He then scored a match winning 90 against South Africa A at home, this time as captain of India A and this led to him receiving a maiden call-up to the Indian Test squad.
Gill was also a regular in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2020 season and his understanding of the game and temperament — something that coaches who have worked with him have spoken about — is what prompted head coach Brendon McCullum to include him in the leadership group of the team.
“What a talent, and what a good guy as well,” McCullum told kkr.in before the start of the season. “He is going to be a part of our leadership group this year as well, at least in some capacity. Even though he is young, I am a big believer that it’s not necessarily true that you having played for a long time makes you a good leader. It’s about you exhibiting the behaviours of a leader.”
India seem to have moved on from looking at Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay as options at the top of the order in Test cricket and with Rohit Sharma not available till the third Test and Shaw’s dwindling form, the Australia series was touted as the one where Gill could finally make his Test debut.
Gill ensured that he remains within a shout for the spot by scoring a steady 65 in the second innings of the day-night warm-up game at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). It remains to be seen whether the Indian think tank will let him open the innings with Mayank Agarwal at the MCG or keep him at No.3, the position he occupied at the SCG.