Ind vs Aus: Ian Bishop on India's U-19 graduates, fast-bowling reserves and what Gill did right

Former West Indies fast bowler Ian Bishop has been following the progress of India’s under-19 graduates closely and the seasoned commentator spoke about Gill and Shaw’s performance in Australia.

Ian Bishop praised by how mentally stable and tough Shubman Gill, Washington Sundar and Rishabh Pant were during the challenging series. (File Photo)   -  GETTY IMAGES

“For the three youngest members: Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant and Washington Sundar, class of #ICCU192016&2018. So excited to see where their career trajectory goes from here.”

That was former West Indies fast bowler Ian Bishop expressing his appreciation for the three 2016 and 2018 Under-19 men’s World Cup players after their match-defining contributions in the 2-1 series win over Australia last week.

ALSO READ| R. Sridhar explains how India scripted history in Australia

As a bowler, Bishop asked probing questions of batsmen the world over. As a well-regarded commentator, who has covered under-19 World Cups in recent years, Bishop has been following the progress of India’s under-19 graduates closely. He spoke to Sportstar about Gill and Shaw’s performance in Australia, India’s fast-bowling reserves and more.

Edited excerpts:

Under-19 players often struggle to make the transition to regular first-class cricket and the senior national side? What makes this set of guys, Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill, so special?

There is no one ingredient that makes a difference in the transition of players from age group to seniors. I’ve always felt it’s important that when you find talented players, that you expose them from an early age to levels of the game above their age-group status. In so doing, those players are continuously playing outside their comfort zone and being stretched. The support systems, coaching, family and mentorship (think Rahul Dravid) around these players from an early age is important.

100

Shubman Gill of India celebrates scoring his half century during day five of the 4th Test Match in the series between Australia and India at The Gabba.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

The technical skill in Gill, Pant, (Washington) Sundar and Shaw is significantly more advanced than others, which means their coaches and parents did an excellent job. But like so many, even great players, there are chinks in their technique that need tightening. Most players have a chink anyway; it’s a matter of how much they can limit its exposure while making their strength dominate the bowler. More important is the mental strength required to adapt to differing oppositions and experiences. And a bit of luck. There are so many ingredients to transition. The cautionary tales out there are many, with Unmukt Chand being a recent example of a good age-group player not quite developing as expected.

Having played against Australia, what do you think are the key traits that any player needs to compete against the Aussies, and did these youngsters have those traits and skills?

I was impressed by how mentally stable and tough Gill, Sundar and Pant (to be fair, Pant had earlier international exposure), were during the series. They just seemed never to be intimidated or overawed. Confidence, without being overconfident, is another key ingredient in the process of transition. That confidence may be innate in a player, or it may be the result of his or her meticulous preparation and hard work. I have heard people say that to beat Australia in Australia, you have to be as aggressive and fight fire with fire. I have always felt that to be inaccurate. India has proven twice now that it is more a matter of believing in yourself and playing to the strength of your individual and collective game. Talking doesn’t win series or games. Gill is a quiet achiever, (Cheteshwar) Pujara unobtrusively bats time, Pant is aggressive, (Ajinkya) Rahane is not verbose as a leader, etc. So, it takes a mixture of attributes. It’s not about sledging and bravado. It is about executing skills in the face of adversity, just like anywhere else.

ALSO READ| India vs Australia: Ajinkya Rahane lauds the team for showing character

Your impression of India’s fast bowling cupboard? Say, a Mohammed Siraj and others...

For two decades now, India has done a lot to develop its pace ranks. This goes back to the era of Zaheer (Khan), Munaf (Patel), R. P. Singh, etc. The recognition that to win in SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia) countries and be a top-three team, a cadre of pace bowlers is very important. They are as important as great batting and spinners are to any champion team. Quality seam bowling is non-negotiable. (Jasprit) Bumrah is an exceptional cross-format bowler, a generational talent. Ishant (Sharma) and (Mohammed) Shami have grown exponentially in their skill and consistency. The guys coming behind are key to sustaining the new dispensation. Siraj blew me away with how well he adapted to Test cricket almost immediately. Those ‘A’ team programmes have worked so well for him and hopefully will help (Navdeep) Saini, (Kamlesh) Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi, Avesh Khan, Prasidh Krishna and (Ankit) Rajpoot, etc.

100

Mohammed Siraj of India celebrates dismissing David Warner of Australia during day one of the 4th Test Match in the series between Australia and India at The Gabba.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Kartik Tyagi has all the potential to be in that group. I say that because he swings the ball at pace. He is quicker than I expected, and he has an aggressive streak to his bowling. If he can control that aggression mindset in addition to streamlining his run-up and angle of delivery on the crease, he could be a handful. But again, it comes back to some of the criteria that we outlined above as to how young players develop and are managed. To be fair, we have a nice renaissance period of fast bowling in the world game now. My new mantra is that if you are definitive and apply purpose in developing any skill, you may not always achieve your goal, but you will see improvement.

What does it take for a young player to stay on top and be relevant for years? What is it that they can learn from, say, a Sachin Tendulkar, who started at 16?

I’ll talk about Sachin and (Brian) Lara. They were the two premier batsmen of my era and great batsmen overall. They both had great skill above others. They both were mentally very, very strong and tough. Lara was at his best when he was challenged. Where others were intimidated in tough situations, he seemed to grow extra wings. Their self-belief because of the work they put in was off the charts. The tougher it got, the better they became as players.

ALSO READ| Steve Smith: 'I decided to be a bit more positive'

But more than that, they were able to add to their game and evolve as players across different phases of their career. Here is something I try to impress upon players: The prevalence of technology and analysts means that a player’s technique is dissected and investigated with each game. This makes it much tougher in some ways than generations before had it. In this era, a player has to first develop a solid foundation in his game, and then be willing to add to it and evolve almost every year. You cannot stay stagnant in this era as a cricketer. Whereas in the years before globalisation, a player could play quite a bit and not be seen by opposition teams for a couple of years until he came up against them. Now, teams have seen footage of you almost every game you play, domestically or internationally.

You watched Shubman Gill during the Under-19 World Cup and have been very effusive in your praise ever since. What did he do right in Australia, according to you?

The backdrop to my appreciation of these players and what their parents and coaches have done for them is this. There’s a group of us who have been blessed with the opportunity to cover multiple tournaments and especially Under-19 Cricket World Cups in recent years. Tom Moody, Simon Doull, (Mpumelelo) Pommie Mbangwa and Danny Morrison, amongst others. We have a colleague named Ajesh Ramachandran, a really good human being, who without fail always implores us to be analytical and truthful, but look for the heroes, search for them and tell the world about their stories and what they can become. You see, it’s easy to be negative and selfish in this tough world. But the world needs positive stories and heroes to help us get through the day. Hence, we always try to emphasise the positives while being realistic. I like watching batsmen who play in straight lines. That’s just my cricket fetish. So, players like Gill, Tendulkar, Kane Williamson, Meg Lanning, etc., catch my eye quickly. Not that any other player is any less excellent.

ALSO READ| India vs Australia: This is the toughest tour ever, says Ravi Shastri

In Australia, on those slightly bouncier pitches, Gill’s ability to play back and forward appropriately, to take on the short ball with aplomb, as a subcontinental player is the hallmark of the new generation of batsmen. This hasn’t always been that way, as we know. His eye-catching, tall, elegant, languid stroke play was easy on the eye. His willingness to respect a certain slow or fast phase of the game showed a good cricketing mind and willingness to be flexible. It wasn’t a case of 'this is the one way I play and I’ll only play that way'. More than anything, he kept improving and not backing down.

He does have a glitch in technique which I was concerned about. He plays often from leg stump, or leg side of the ball, which encourages seamers to challenge him around fourth or fifth stump and bring the outside edge into play. Much in a way like Virender Sehwag used to do and he wasn’t too bad a player. In his final innings at Brisbane, he came across his stumps more at times and didn’t let his hands and bat stray too far from his body where he lost control of his stroke outside his eye line. So, he seems aware of it and is prepared to adapt. If he can achieve that, he will be able to continue to score under almost all conditions.

Lastly, Shaw has faced a lot of flak for his technical difficulties versus Australia. What is your advice? Does he need to go back to domestic cricket and score runs again?

I am not the batting technician or guru who can tell Shaw what to do and how to fix his deficiency. There are those much more qualified to do that. It is not simply about going back to domestic cricket and scoring tons of runs. Shaw scores high-volume runs domestically anyway. It must be that someone can help him to adjust or fine-tune the deficiency which has been identified, allow him to get comfortable with it, and then for him to get acclimated to it by using the modification to continue scoring domestically and regain confidence and form.

100

Pat Cummins (right) of Australia celebrates taking the wicket of Prithvi Shaw of India during day two of the First Test match between Australia and India at Adelaide Oval.   -  GETTY IMAGES