‘Let’s practice more, ruk jao’: How visualisation, insatiable appetite for improvement power Shubman Gill’s ambition

The morning after his wondrous night against RCB in Bangalore, Shubman Gill’s mentor, friend and Ranji team-mate Gurkeerat Mann called him. “I asked him what’s his plan for the morning, and he said ‘Paaji, I am going to gym’. You can see the work ethic. Most of the time, if a match ends late, players will sleep for an extra couple of hours, but not Shubman. He was off to the gym at 8 am. He knows the work is only half done. He wants to perform more, and score more. The fire in the belly never allows him to lower his guard,” said Mann.

An insatiable appetite for improvement matches his ambition, says Mann. “He watches his batting videos after every match, no matter, he scores runs or gets out cheaply. He analyses the dismissal. He will work on those things in the nets for hours and if you will ask him ‘Shubhi, let’s go; it’s been more than two hours, he will reply, ‘paji ye upar waali ball ne aaj trouble kiya hai, thodi der aur ruk jao (The full ball has troubled me today; please stay for a while.)

Gill’s preparation involves a lot of visualisation techniques, says Mann; a habit that has been inculcated from childhood by his cricket-loving father who was Gill’s first coach. Even Gill’s famous short-arm job was a byproduct of it, feels Mann.

Gill and Kohli Motera test Virat Kohli with Shubman Gill during the fourth India-Australia Test match in March 2023 at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. (PTI)

“It all started with visualisation. His father Lakhwinder paaji would see how Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid would play shots on the TV and would try to teach the same to Gill. He will tell him to visualise how Sachin has played a leg glance or how Dravid would get on top of the bounce,” Mann told The Indian Express.

Getting on top of the bounce is the soul of Gill’s game. He has that knack of tapping the ball on its head, so to speak. A game that’s largely built on cement tracks in his developmental years and hence, resulting in a strong back foot game that deals with bounce. When he was a kid, his father started with throw downs with plastic ball to hone his reflexes and his ability to pick the lengths early; he then had him playing to the spongy bounce of the tennis ball, which set the tone for his backfoot game and with his base game ready and fear tackled, he was introduced to hard leather ball.

“He developed the short-arm jab and the slap shot he plays through the covers over the period of time. In junior cricket, he was very thin and never had that power. He has worked on his power game as well. The range of power strokes he has developed is after the initial failure he has gone through in his international career. It was the first time, when he struggled for runs, but the work never stopped and he came back a better player,” Mann says.

Shubman Gill Gujarat Titans batter Shubman Gill plays a shot during the IPL 2023 cricket match between Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans, at Narendra Modi Stadium, in Ahmedabad. (PTI)

The ‘power’ game, whose soul lies in timing rather than brute muscle, has been visible this IPL with several monstrous sixes; eight of them came against Bangalore. The range has been spread throughout the tournament. In contrast to the Bangalore game, his other century this IPL against Sunrisers Hyderabad in Ahmedabad was all about threading the gaps; just one six came by that night.

“Against Sunrisers, he was dealing in boundaries from the word go. His exact words were ‘The first ball I faced I timed it perfectly. I was finding gaps at ease and I realised that I can accelerate without going for the glory shots.’ He has also realised that if he bats deep, he can chase down any target. He knows that he has all those shots, and even if the asking rate is beyond 15 runs per over, he backs himself to finish the job.”

Mann calls Shubman a “cricket geek” and compares him with a topper in the school, who sits for math exams and knows how to solve a theorem in four different ways.

“He prepares a lot before every match. He set his areas where he can hit a certain bowler. He watches the videos of all the bowlers. He goes big in the pre-match preparation. For example, the next match is at Chepauk. He has started training in the nets according to the dimensions of the Chepauk. He visualises everything and it gives him an advantage on the match day.

“He is like the class topper, who prepares a lot before the exam,” Mann says.

Mann also offers a rather interesting reason for Gill’s game-awareness and maturity.

“Since his U-14 days, when he was 12, he has played in the Mohali stadium and that’s what makes him different from the cricketers of his age. He has played in an International stadium, so he started to understand the conditions pretty early. He knows the dimensions, the big pockets of the grounds and he has scored heaps of runs in the Mohali Stadium before he even started playing the U-19 cricket,” said Mann.


Gill first IPL century Gill celebrates scoring a hundred against Sunrisers Hyderabad during the 2023 Indian Premier League game at the Narendra Modi Stadium. (PTI)

Mann also reckons Gill’s unfazed temperament is the real key in handling success or failure.

“Win or lose, duck or a century, he will swiftly get over that knock. It is always the next game, then the next game. He scored a century against Surnrisers and got out to Bhuvi [Bhuvneshwar Kumar] in the last over. His worry was that there were five balls left and he should have at least hit a couple of sixes and was actually disgusted with the way he got out,” Mann shares.

Glamorgan coach Matthew Maynard, who had seen Shubman from close quarters during his county stint with Glamorgan last season, says his first question to the youngster was, ‘Mate are you born with the bat in your hand?’ “His technique is pure; it is wonderful. An excellent basic technique where he is so balanced. His weight transfer against seamers is so good that it looks like he was born with a bat in his hand. He is a beautiful batsman to watch,” Maynard told this newspaper. “I do see elements of other batsmen but not like a copy. He reminds you of Dravid because he is tall, and when he plays that clip shot, you will be like oh there is a bit of Dravid in that. When he plays that cover drive, there’s a bit of Sachin in it as well. He doesn’t appear to hit the ball, It is pure timing. He does hit the ball hard but from the outside, it doesn’t look like it. He looks effortless,” says Maynard.

Finally, Mann brings up a last-over wide against RCB and Gill’s response as a statement about temperament. There was an above waist-high no ball but the umpires hadn’t called it no-ball; he opted for the review system to get the decision overturned.

“The no-ball review shows that even if he was batting on 98 and the target was pretty achievable, he will not cut any slack to the opponents (laughs).”

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