Shubman Gill believes that India’s success in New Zealand will depend on how well they negotiate the short ball, especially considering it is the weapon of choice for one of their best bowlers – Neil Wagner.
New Zealand endured a tough time on their tour of Australia late last year but Wagner emerged as one of the significant positives from the 3-0 thrashing. The short ball remained his ultimate weapon and it even accounted for Steven Smith four times. In the home Test series against England that preceded that tour, Wagner laboured on surfaces that had nothing to offer him, bowing long spells full of short balls to help New Zealand get back in the game.
“I think their bowling attack has been taking a lot of wickets with the short ball, especially Wagner,” Gill said on the eve of the Indians’ practice match in Hamilton. “If you see the last series they played against Australia, when nothing was happening in the wicket, they were really relying on the short ball. I think as a team, as a batsman, if we could take that out of the picture and not give wickets to the short ball, it will be really helpful for us.”
Gill warmed up with scores of 83, 204* and 136 with India A in New Zealand earlier this month, and from his recent experience, he picked out the one challenge that awaits batsmen in those conditions.
“I think the wickets here are really good to bat on, especially when we played the days game in Christchurch, the wickets were really good to bat on,” Gill said. “The only challenge that we were facing was the bounce. The bounce was really good and it was really consistent. Keeping the wind factor in mind, it was not that easy to consistently pull and hook the ball.”
With those scores, Gill has made a strong case for selection as an opener with Mayank Agarwal in the Test series. It’s currently a toss-up between him and Prithvi Shaw, who has also had a recent run of good form.
“Obviously, our [his and Shaw’s] careers started at the same time but there is no fight [for the spot] as such. Both of us have done well in our positions. It’s up to the team management, who they will play. Whoever gets the chance will try to make the most of the opportunity and not let it go waste.”
It was in New Zealand last year that Gill made his India debut. As he gears up in hope to showcase his skills in whites for India, he also explained how fitness has been central to his development, especially while playing in the longer format.
“I don’t know about control over the mind but if you are fitter, you are confident that I can play a longer innings, I won’t be that tired,” Gill said. “If I am playing in a test match, I can back myself to play 300 balls, 350 balls and after that, when you go out to field, I won’t be that tired. My legs won’t be that tired. Those are the challenges.
“I think I have grown as a player, I have grown in confidence and in other aspects of my game. I think I have learnt a lot of things over the last few years. On my fitness, fielding, not just on my batting.”