At 17 years and 175 days, Riyan Parag became the youngest to score a half centuryin the twelve year journey of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The Guwahati youngster’s approach of playing attractive and aggressive cricket, even as he ran out of partners has now propelled him in the lot of young talent that will define the future of Indian cricket.
This edition of the IPL has seen a few youngsters who have broken the barrier and have stood out as compared to other senior Indian players. The second name that immediately strikes one, while on the topic of promising batsmen of the future, is that of Shubman Gill. The two bright knocks he played — 65 unbeaten runs against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) and 76 against Mumbai Indians (MI) have shown that the 19-year-old has finally arrived.
Parag, who has played just 4 first class matches for Assam and Gill, with 9 first class games, with highest being 268, and two One Day Internationals (ODI) against New Zealand earlier this year, have created an impact in the on going IPL. Gill has been on the radar of the Indian selectors after his per-formances in India’s victorious International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Under-19 World Cup campaign last year.
After the team’s return, post their stupendous win in New Zealand, all eyes were on skipper Prithvi Shaw who had aggregated 261 runs in six matches, the highest by an Indian captain in the tournament. Shaw was then hailed as the boy to watch out for and soon made his debut for India against the West Indies scoring 134 in his first Test innings at Rajkot. His rise to the highest level of cricket put in shade performances by the rest of the team that had also played crucial roles in India’s championship win.
While writing a feature on the impact of the Indian under-19 win, one asked a senior member of the support staff that toured with the team about players that one should watch out for. Though he heaped praises on Shaw for his aggressive batsmanship, he said the lad to watch out for was Gill. The two reasons he singled out the Punjab lad were a sound batting technique and tremendous temperament.
Gill, in his opinion, was someone the team could bank on no matter what the situation. His cool and calculated approach to the game, as was seen in the recent IPL matches, gave him the edge and has now put him in contention for a place in the middle order at the highest level of the game — Test cricket.
Rating a player by his performances in the Twenty20 (T20) format, the shortest in the game, for pro-motion to the longer ones — ODIs and Tests is not exactly a fair approach. We have seen many players wanting in the longer versions after their stellar shows in T20 tournaments. On the other hand, players like Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav and Jos Buttler gave a new twist to their careers thanks to their showing in IPL, the most watched T20 tournament in the world.
Promoted from number 7 to opening the innings, Gill’s 76 runs against MI came at a crucial moment for his team Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). After a promising start, KKR had slumped to the bottom half of the IPL points table. The comments of Andre Russell, their most valuable player, that ques-tioned the decisions of the team management after losing to a weaker team (Rajasthan Royals) was not exactly the kind of scenario any team would like to be in.
After giving his team a breather against MI, in the company of Russell, Gill’s quiet and determined knock against KXIP was good news for Indian fans who are worried about the teams middle order woes. Parag, on the other hand, has shown glimpses of maturity in one so young in a few solid innings he has played in the IPL. Keeping one’s nerve when the chips are down is a sign of player who is destined for bigger things.
The current Indian middle order is dependant on Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara in Tests and only Kohli in the shorter formats, the rest being mere floaters. The future of middle order in ODIs will only be known post ICC World Cup 2019.
The advent of these two young teenagers who have shown that they have the temperament to bat at the highest level is exactly what India needs. Many promising cricketers have soared like comets only to fizzle out over a period of time.
Needless to say, Gill’s, Parag’s and India’s future will depend on how they will keep their heads down and continue to perform as time goes by....