IPL – Ashish Nehra wants to help Shubman Gill grow more as a person than as a captain

Gujarat Titans are under new management with Shubman Gill succeeding Hardik Pandya as captain of the franchise that made the final in each of the two years they’ve been involved in the tournament.

Although he is one of the best batters in the world in limited-overs cricket at present, and is coming into the IPL having discovered that his Test game has improved as well, scoring 452 runs against England in the recently concluded five-match series, Gill does not have a lot of experience as captain at the highest levels of the game and that brings a little bit of intrigue to how the Titans will go about their business this year.

Ashish Nehra, their head coach told reporters on Saturday, that he was “very excited to see how Gill operates.”

“The whole of India, not only me,” he added. “He is that kind of player. He is someone who is looking to play and looking to do well in all three formats. So we as a franchise, as a support staff, are really excited to help him grow as a person more than as a captain. If he grows as a person, then he will definitely be a better captain going forward.

“And you know, Hardik also did not captain anywhere before he captained GT. Now there are ten teams. This is not the first example. You will see more and more people, you know, somebody like Shreyas Iyer, even Nitish Rana did captaincy for KKR. So this is a great experience for all these guys and let’s see who capitalises on that and move ahead, again, first as a person then as a player.”

Gill is also one of the Titans’ key batters, having scored 1373 runs at a strike rate of 147.79 – the highest over the last two years of the IPL. Their batting coach Gary Kirsten believes captaincy is a good step up for him.

“I think the leadership is going to be an important role for him and I know he’s really keen to do the job and we, as coaches, just need to assist him in making sure he’s getting the best out of his players and he’s leading the team appropriately and in the way we want him to lead,” Kirsten said. “He’s a quality player. He’s a thoroughly nice person. He’s got massive motivation and determination as an individual, which we’ve seen when playing for India. But like any new leader, he’s starting from scratch and he’s going to be met with challenges along the way and we, as coaches, will just have to assist him along the way.”

“So we as a franchise, as a support staff, are really excited to help him grow as a person more than as a captain.”

Nehra on Gill

Titans will be without another key performer from the past with Mohammed Shami out injured, which takes a little bit away from the threat they pose as a fast-bowling unit.

“In any sport, you have to move on. You can’t buy experience to replace Hardik, Shami, it’s not going to be easy,” Nehra said. “But there’s the learning curve. Every year, new guys come and they step in and that’s how teams move forward. In IPL, every team has the luxury of 25 players. It’s a 12-person game, but you are talking about Hardik Pandya and Shami – to fill those shoes is not easy. But like I said, we have enough people, Umesh Yadav, again a guy who has been playing IPL [for] 10-12 years. Sai Kishore, he didn’t play last year, but he’s been doing so well. So every year, you will see new guys and you have to believe in yourself and prepare for that.

“We’re going to see Shahrukh Khan become the main actor,” Nehra said when answering a question about the finishers in the squad, “IPL is a very long tournament. It’s not like we’re playing just three, four, five matches. Conditions are also difficult in May and June. It will be hard on the players, especially fast bowlers. Injuries can also happen. So every player we have is important and those we have are experienced. Spencer Johnson, if you see, wherever he’s played, he’s played well. Azmatullah Omarzai again, he has all the skills in this world as an allrounder and we are very hopeful that they’ll have a great IPL.”

Titans do have a strong spin bowling unit though, led by Rashid Khan, and while they will lean on them as the IPL goes on, Nehra all but ruled out the prospect of producing turning pitches, even though Ahmedabad has both red (marginally more pace-friendly with extra bounce) and black (slow and low) soil pitches and offers the team the option of tailoring their home advantage.

“We have not decided that but I don’t think so… In the end, you just have to play good cricket. Black soil or red soil, there’s not too much difference. It’s just a little bounce.”

Titans begin their season on March 24 when they will be going up against Hardik who now captains Mumbai Indians. Nehra convinced him to join the Titans over Lucknow Super Giants back in 2022. Could he have done the same now and prevented him moving?

“I didn’t try to convince him a lot,” Nehra said, “That is because as you play more, the more experience you gain – like he came here and played for two years. Even so, he has gone to such a team that I could have stopped him had he been going to some other team. [But] he played for that team for five or six years. And the way this game has been going along, people say that it is heading in the direction of soccer or basketball. So, we will end up seeing those trades [in cricket too]. Yes, GT will miss Hardik Pandya. But it is a new opportunity for him. Every year IPL teaches you something new, and this year too there will be something new to learn. Best wishes [to him] from our side.”

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