On the eve of the series opener, Rohit did nothing to help ease the media and fans’ suspense, adding further to the mystery of India’s Playing XI. But while the team combinations present several puzzled, the one toss-up which everyone is extremely invested emotionally is between Gill and KL Rahul.
If there is anything that promises to be as intriguing as the hoopla surrounding the pitch to be used in the India vs Australia 1st Test in Nagpur starting Thursday, it is the mystery surrounding the Playing XI captain Rohit Sharma decides to go with. Who will be the third pacer? Will Suryakumar Yadav make his debut? Where will Shubman Gill bat? All these questions will be answered shortly. The current situation is such that even Rohit is not sure whom to play and drop. On the eve of the series opener, Rohit did nothing to help ease the media and fans’ suspense, adding further to the mystery of India’s Playing XI. But while the team combinations present several puzzled, the one toss-up which everyone is extremely invested emotionally is between Gill and KL Rahul.
Rahul has been India’s go-to opener in Tests for a long period of time but with the kind of form Gill is in, it is just impossible to leave him out. With two centuries and one double hundred in the white-ball formats, Gill has hit purple patch, which makes his inclusion in the XI imperative. Having said that, Rahul is returning after a brief period as well, and given he addressed India’s first press conference of the Test series, is a hint that he will play too. However, who bats where makes for an interesting tactic from the team management.
Weighing in on the same, former India Kapil Dev reckons Gill should be the man for the job. Having played all his cricket as an opener, Gill possesses a certain skill-set and advantage over Rahul. KL, the vice-captain has been India’s designated opened in the past, but he began his Test career as a middle-order batter all those years ago in 2014. Even in ODIs, Rahul has batted at No. 4 and 5 – as recently as the ODI series against Bangladesh; and hence, there is no reason as to why he can’t perform the same role in India whites. But at the same time, if India pushes Gill down the middle order and persists with Rahul at the topic, Kapil isn’t in favour of the move.
“There’s no point making him bat at 5. In that case, it’s better if you don’t play him at all. If that boy is batting so well while opening, why put pressure on him. Just because you want to include him the XI, you can’t make him bat at No. 5. Don’t do that. Opening is a very technical job. You can shuffle a No. 4 and a No. 7 but an opener is there due to a special skill. In my estimation, if Shubman Gill plays, he should only open,” Kapil said on Uncut.
Gill’s India journey has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. Having made his India debut in 2019, Gill’s hit his peak – or so it seemed – in the last Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Australia, where he earned his maiden Test cap and sizzled with a match-defining knock of 91 in the famous Gabba game in Brisbane. But his career nosedived a little following after a poor home series against England. To make matters worse, a shin injury shoved Gill out of the team and down in the pecking order. But it all came back last year, when filling in against the likes of West Indies and Zimbabwe, Gill received his true calling, and continued his imperious form against Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Kapil believes this version of the Gill needs to be carefully managed and looked after since the youngster has what it takes to become Indian cricket’s next quintessential superstar.
“When we used to play cricket, we used to say, ‘Man in form is important’. Today if you look at it, which player is in better form than him? Everyone’s performing well but he is playing a cut above the rest. There is a vast different between the Gill of today and what he was 1.5 years ago. The attitude, his approach towards the game. That is something which a player learns as he plays more. He is being matured. And if you don’t include such a player, that scope which he has of becoming a superstar may get limited to being just a star,” added the legendary all-rounder.