Shubhman Gill was the talk of the town when the young batsman struck a mighty century against Pakistan in the semi-finals of the ICC U-19 World Cup in January. Gill's fate was immediately sealed after his heroics led India to win the U-19 World Cup for a record fourth time. The young boys were coached by Rahul Dravid and Gill now apply's the former Team India captain's advice in the Indian Premier League 2018 when he will take on the "big boys" for the Kolkata Knight Riders.
"We all talked to him. He had a word with all of us before we dispersed after the tournament. He had a one-on-one chat with everyone. He told us that from here on, there will be more mental preparation.
"When you go to the higher level, there is a difference and it is more in the mind. You have to prepare yourself mentally," Gill told IANS.
"It's more of a mental game now. Dravid sir told us that everybody has skills, but it's how you prepare yourself mentally to execute at the stage and at that particular time," the 18-year old Punjab right-hander added.
Under Dravid's tutelage, Gill and his teammates claimed a record fourth U-19 World Cup, beating Australia in the final by eight wickets.
All through the tournament, India were not only unbeaten but utterly dominant, winning three matches by 100 or more runs and two by 10 wickets.
"It was a great experience for all of us in the U-19 World Cup in New Zealand," Gill reminisced.
"Our bowlers did a great job, both the medium pacers and the spinners. We got great exposure and because of that opportunities have opened up for all of us. People have started recognising us. We get motivated by that and our chances to doing well are enhanced," he said.
Soft-spoken and very articulate for his age, Gill finished the World Cup as the "Player of the Series" after scoring 372 runs in five matches at a whopping average of 124 and a strike rate of 112.38.
Asked about his stellar show at the showpiece event, Gill again credited Dravid.
"We were fortunate that we worked with him (Dravid) and that helped not only me but all of us play the way we did. He shared all his experiences of going to New Zealand with us before the World Cup, during our preparations. He is such a legend," he said.
At KKR, there is a shortage of top-order batsmen and Gill could come in handy with his penchant for big runs. Gill, who had a base price of Rs 20 lakh in the IPL auctions, was roped in for Rs 1.8 crore by KKR.
"It's a great opportunity for all of us to... play at such a high level. I am really looking forward to it. Our preparations are going well and we will try to deliver our best," said Gill, who is more about textbook shots than big bat swings.
Against arch-rivals Pakistan, Gill underlined his potential with a classy 94-ball 102. Comparisons with India skipper Virat Kohli have already started doing the rounds but Gill, whose favourite cricketer is Kohli, wants to take it easy.
"I look up to Virat Kohli. But at the moment, my only goal is to make my team win every time. Our chances of taking the next step will only be enhanced if we win the IPL. I always think of how I can help the team and how I can contribute.
"If I do well for KKR, I will automatically do well for myself," said Gill, who made his first-class debut before the World Cup for Punjab in the Ranji Trophy in late 2017 with a half-century in the game and 129 in the next match.
Not wanting to think too much about breaking into the senior team, Gill signed off by saying he admires each and every member of Kohli's side and it is their fielding and fitness that attracts him the most.
"This Indian team has changed the trend in terms of their fielding and fitness standards," Gill said.
"Now the Indian team is one of the best fielding sides in the world. The way they carry themselves, their attitude on and off the field, all the guys, I really admire them", concluded Gill.