In November 2009, Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar enthralled fans at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium with a breathtaking 175 against Australia. The record for the highest individual score in the maidans of Uppal stood intact until Wednesday afternoon.
During an inter-district Under-16 tournament in Punjab, Shubman Gill made waves and smashed a brilliant 351 to become the subject of national headlines. Gill is known for his love of spending time at the crease and having the hunger to score big runs. And at a venue where Tendulkar - often called ‘the God of Cricket’ - ruled the roost, Gill added another feather to his cap, blazing away to a dazzling double century, his first, against New Zealand in the first of three ODIs.
Gill flourished as the day progressed and with 31,187 fans backing the youngster, the India opener smashed a brilliant 208 off 149 deliveries. His knock, at a strike rate of 139.59, was studded with 19 boundaries and nine sixes. In a marathon innings, the right-handed opening batter spent 226 minutes in the middle to set up a batting exhibition.
The crowd, donning India jerseys and wearing tricolour face paints, entered the stadium, singing local numbers and creating a festive atmosphere. It was a special treat, as having opted to bat first, Gill kept the atmosphere alive and kicking with some sumptuous hitting.
On a track that offered bounce and a bit of turn, Gill produced a masterclass to help India post a mammoth total of 349 for the loss of eight wickets. Gill got off to a cautious start, only occasionally displaying shades of aggression. As twilight approached, the 23-year-old hammered six sixes after crossing his 150, stepping on the gas to become the youngest batter to score a double century.
With the feat, Gill joined an elite list comprising Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma, Ishan Kishan, Fakhar Zaman, Virender Sehwag, Chris Gayle, and Martin Guptill.
An audacious pull over deep mid-wicket took Gill to 99. As he reached his hundred with a single in 87 deliveries, Gill raised both his arms to celebrate. Moments later, Gill, batting like a well-oiled machine, crossed his career-best ODI score (previous best 130) and then got to his 150 in style with a six over deep mid-wicket.
From then on, Gill activated his T20 avatar to unleash carnage, eventually surpassing Tendulkar’s score of an unbeaten 186 in 1999 to script another record of registering the highest individual score against New Zealand in ODIs.
Gill, exhibiting batting pyrotechnics, zoomed into the 190s and minutes later, sent the white ball soaring over long-off to take off his helmet once again and soak in the applause. He waved his bat in delight as the crowd chanted his name and then acknowledged the standing ovation with a bow.
The pitch seemed to be holding up a bit as the New Zealand quicks extracted bounce to make shot-making difficult. But Gill, battling heat and humidity, ran hard between the wickets, rode on the bounce and pulled with authority and control. The big shots flew higher as the innings progressed, throwing in the odd cut and drive into the mix.
Gill, in complete control, put on his dancing shoes when it came to playing the spinners. Having got a reprieve while batting on 45, he cashed in on the opportunity by first scoring his second consecutive century and then breaching the 1000-run barrier in just 19 innings.
The ability to score runs was never in doubt but with the double century, Gill has proved he can accumulate runs consistently and can bat through an innings when the big guns don’t fire. It’s not very often that a young player towers above much-established names like Rohit or Virat Kohli. On Wednesday, the famed top-order scored only 106. On that very day, a young man from Punjab set one foot onto the canvas of batting greatness with a knock worth gold.
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