India‘s 2018 U19 World Cup star Shubman Gill seems all set to make his debut in the fourth ODI against New Zealand in Hamilton on Thursday.
The Men in Blue have already taken an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series and with captain Virat Kohli back in India on a break, a batting spot has opened up.
Keeper MS Dhoni missed the third match due to hamstring strain and irrespective of whether he comes back to the playing XI, Gill looks set to make his India bow.
The highly rated Gill has been talked up as the next big batting star and even though he is just 19, the consensus in India is he is ready for international cricket.
Captain Kohli said he was didn’t have “even 10 per cent of the talent” that Gill has at the age of 19. Former India captain Sourav Ganguly and Sunil Gavaskar have also asked for Gill to be given an opportunity in the remaining two games.
Gavaskar, speaking to India Today, said: “Because the number three spot is vacant, I would want to give Shubman Gill a game, give him a couple of games and see how he fares. If he gets to bat, you will get a fair idea how he is taking to international cricket.”
Former skipper Ganguly, speaking to India TV, said: “You can play MS Dhoni at four, Kedar Jadhav at five and you also have a batsman in Shubman Gill, who should play in the remaining matches.”
That statement seemed out of place simply because India, despite having a strong bowling and batting line-up, lost Test series in South Africa and England whereas the 2007 Indian team had managed to win the series in England.
But the Indian hierarchy was adamant. They ended 2018 having lost seven Tests in a calendar year with four wins. Definitely not the greatest record.
However, by the end of the first month of 2019, that statement by Shastri and Kohli is beginning to ring true. The current Indian side is the best team away from home in international cricket.
As the men in blue secured a comfortable win in the third ODI against New Zealand in Mount Maunganui on Monday, they had made it five ODI wins on the bounce in Australia and New Zealand. They also took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series to go with the ODI and Test series wins in Australia.
Since the Champions Trophy final defeat to Pakistan in 2017, India have lost just one out of 11 ODI series. That is a staggering effort given India haven’t always fielded their best playing XI in both formats.
India rested pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah for the recent Australia ODI series and subsequent tour of New Zealand. They were without key all-rounder Hardik Pandya for the entire tour of the Antipodes until the third ODI in New Zealand.
Before that during the Test series in Australia, off-spinner Ravi Ashwin picked up an injury after the first Test in Adelaide. Going back to the tour of England, India were without Bhuvneshwar Kumar for almost the entire tour while Bumrah returned from injury after India had lost the first two Tests.
But one thing has remained constant – India’s competitiveness. Whatever the format, opposition conditions, India have put up a fight in almost every match regardless of their XI.
Time to stop trolling @RaviShastriOfc and the support unit and acknowledge their contribution to creating a team that will go into the World Cup as major contenders. Fashionable to troll Ravi but time to stop it now.— Boria Majumdar (@BoriaMajumdar) January 28, 2019
Two other teams could have laid claim to the tag of being the best travellers in all formats – South Africa and England. However, the Proteas’ 2-0 Test thrashing in Sri Lanka last year, coupled with their struggles at home in ODIs – having lost 5-1 to India and battling to win against Pakistan in the ongoing series – weakens their case.
England can claim to be close to India given their emphatic 4-1 Test series win at home against Kohli’s team and 3-0 win in Sri Lanka coupled with ODI series wins against Australia and India at home and against Sri Lanka away.
But their disastrous effort during the Barbados Test against the West Indies this week, and successive innings defeats in Australia and New Zealand at the start of last year, means the Englishmen have issues to tackle.
Which makes India easily the most well-settled and challenging team in the world; we are not even considering their stupendous record at home even as every other team is losing matches in their backyard. India’s wins are numerous and impressive but their defeats are very rarely embarrassing. And that is the hallmark of a truly champion team.
There is an apt couplet in Urdu which goes something like this: “Don’t be so proud of your win… people are talking more about my defeat than your victory.” That’s the level the Indian team has reached.
Batting for his state Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy semi-final against Karnataka in Bengaluru, Pujara was in fine form as his second innings century took his team to the brink of victory chasing 279.
However, the local crowd targeted the India batsman for refusing to walk despite edging the ball behind in both innings. Video surfaced of fans at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium booing Pujara as he walked off the field at the end of the fourth day’s play with some even shouting ‘cheater’.
Umpiring standard in India’s domestic cricket has come in for sharp criticism this season with BCCI general manager for cricket operations Saba Karim saying umpires who are found to be below required standards will be weeded out.
There has been a dearth of quality umpires in India this season with the addition of nine state teams to the domestic roster.