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Well over a decade back when former India pace bowler Karsan Ghavri took charge of the BCCI pace bowlers academy at the PCA Stadium in Mohali to groom future India fast bowlers, he struggled to find young batsmen for his trainee bowlers to practice against.
“For the first few days, I would do drills, train them but there were no batsmen for bowlers to bowl to in the nets,” Ghavri recounted. “We used to teach them the bowling drills but for actual practice, we needed batsmen. I was tasked to produce future pacers of the country. Without them bowling at batsmen, it was impossible. I got in touch with Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) to provide some local U-16, U-19 batsmen.”
“Then one day it rained, forcing me and assistant coach Yoginder Puri to take a break from training,” he went on. “I walked across the road to this huge ground (which hosts PCA’s district games) and saw some kids playing. There was this kid of 10 or 11 who was playing some great shots – correct and straight. I walked up to a gentleman sitting outside the boundary and chatted him up. He was the father of that kid.”
The kid was a young Shubman Gill, who on Tuesday, scored 91 to help India beat Australia in the fourth Test at the Gabba.
Ghavri asked Lakhwinder Singh Gill to send his young son Shubman to the nets and promised him facilities. The father, who had relocated over 300 kilometres to Mohali from his village in Punjab with the kid just to ensure that the lad could pursue his cricket, was overjoyed.
Gill, at 10-11, began facing U-19 pace bowlers who were on the cusp of representing their respective states. He would turn up every day to face the pace bowlers.
“He started mixing with players, eating with them. He would bat for 30-40 minutes every day. We used to give every pace bowler a fresh, new ball. He was playing U-19 boys so well that I was surprised. I called Sushil Kapoor (the administrative manager of the academy and a high ranking official of PCA) and told him to look after the boy and put him in the U-14s. He agreed. Gill played there and he started scoring.”
Kapoor says the fearlessness was developed in Gill at a very young age by facing bowlers much older to him constantly.
“If you have noticed, he plays the fast bowlers very straight. He is not afraid of playing pull or hook shots. Even at Brisbane, he never shied away and played his shots against Pat Cummins & Co fearlessly. This courage has come from those early years of practice when he was facing bowlers seven-eight years older to him,” Kapoor, who has also managed Punjab Ranji teams, recalled Ghavri kept following Gill’s progress even when he moved out of Mohali academy.
Kapoor recalled, “Shubman had this hunger for runs. I saw it from his childhood days. He would not be satisfied with a 50 or a 60, but would go for the big numbers.”