Shubman Gill: A vital cog in the KKR arsenal

As we do on the first of every month, we are offering another look-back at one of our special Knight’s debut IPL season.

2018 has been a dream year for Shubman Gill, who was all of 18 years old when he started finding the spotlight. At the time of the auction ahead of IPL 11, Shubman was in his hotel room in Christchurch, New Zealand, preparing for India’s Under-19 World Cup semi-final contest v Pakistan.

Did he worry too much about being picked by a franchise?

“Dravid sir had a meeting with us,” he recalled in a chat with ESPNCricinfo. “He said IPL auction will keep happening every year, so we shouldn't worry about being picked or not. He told us to just focus on the Under-19 World Cup because we won't have this opportunity again in our lives."

Two days after bagging an incredible ₹1.8 crore-contract with Kolkata Knight Riders, the calm and focussed Shubman went on to script a match-winning century against Pakistan, before bagging the Man Of The Tournament award in India’s title-winning campaign.

By the time Shubman donned the purple and gold for the first time (alongside his U-19 compadre Shivam Mavi, against Sunrisers Hyderabad on April 14 at Eden Gardens), he was already in the centre of a lot of media hype. In his debut appearance, Shubman came out to bat at No.7 without much time left in the innings, ending up scoring just three runs.

His first breakout-knock came in our mammoth chase against Delhi Daredevils, where he forged a crucial partnership with Andre Russell. We lost the game, but Shubman’s gritty 37 off 29 balls grabbed quite a few eyeballs. In the absence of Sunil Narine, Shubman even opened for us against Mumbai Indians, proving his ability to adapt.

The IPL was Shubman’s first major T20 tournament, and it was only natural for him to take a while before finding his comfort zone. Against CSK in Kolkata, he got his maiden IPL fifty - an unbeaten knock of 57 off 36 balls - to help us clinch a fantastic six-wicket win. That knock was watched by Dinesh Karthik, our skipper, from the non-striker’s end, as the duo strung an unbeaten fifth-wicket partnership of 83 off just 36 balls in the chase.

Cut to the second qualifier (against SRH in Kolkata), and Shubman kept us in the game for a long time despite Rashid Khan spinning a web around our batting unit with a match-winning spell. The youngster fought on with 30 off 20 balls, and though SRH eventually won, Shubman bowed out of the IPL with a lot of promise for the future.

From Under-19 age-group cricket, to representing Punjab in the various domestic formats, and playing for KKR in front of capacity-crowds around the country - Shubman has achieved a lot this year.

Having honed his skills in the off-season at KKR Academy, and the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, Shubman’s been working hard to fix all chinks in his armour.

Come IPL 2019, and we could be in for a tremendous show from the upcoming poster-boy of Indian cricket. Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo.