Eighty-two-year-old Didar Singh Gill was slightly disappointed when his son Lakhwinder and grandson Shubman left their village for Mohali in 2007. The village was founded by their ancestors and, except during the three India-Pakistan wars, the family lived there. But to ensure Shubman’s cricketing ambitions were not curtailed, his father decided to leave the countryside and move to the city.
On Saturday, Didar watched every ball of the final along with some 100-odd villagers at their home in Chak Jamal Singh Wala village near Jalalabad as his grandson repaid the faith by ending the under-19 World Cup as the highest scorer (372) apart from bagging the player of the tournament award. “The village was founded by my great-grandfather Jaimal Singh and all our ancestors have been farmers and stayed in the village. We shifted to (the nearby village) Muktsar with our belongings during the three India-Pakistan wars but then we came back again,” Didar says. “Shulman’s father wanted to give him all the facilities and decided to shift.”
With the father-son duo gone, Didar took charge of the 60-acre farmland that the family owns. It took a toll on his aging body but Didar doesn’t complain. “Earlier, I used to drive tractor for 1-2 hours every day but since 2007, I have had to drive for more than four hours daily apart from making the frequent two-hour trip to Moga to check our water motor connections,” Didar says. “Lakhwinder used to travel with Shubman and last year we suffered a loss of Rs 6 lakh after there was a one-week delay in selling the 9,500 kg because the prices had fallen. The player of the tournament trophy’s worth is more than gold to our family.”
The family initially thought of moving to Bengaluru due to the city’s reputation as a cricket nursery but eventually decided to rent a house near the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali and train there. Lakhwinder was worried initially about his son’s future but when, aged 14, he scored a triple ton in an under-16 state-level match, he felt reassured. “When he scored the triple hundred, Yograj Singh told him that this guy will even break Yuvraj’s records,” Shulman’s uncle Sarabjit Sandhu says.
Shubman would bag BCCI’s best U-14 cricketer award for the 2013-2014 season, but it was not until April 2014 that Didar understood what his grandson’s average playing day looked like. Gill was involved in a world record opening wicket partnership of 587 runs with fellow opener Nirmal Singh. He scored 351 of those runs. “His father had to travel somewhere so he asked me to watch the match. It was a hot summer day and Shubman batted for more than six hours. That day I thought that what we have put our grandson in!”
Twenty-two-year-old Khushpreet Singh played cricket with Shubman during his initial days. The duo would travel together across the city in search of a decent training ground and Khushpreet, a fast bowler, says he would end up bowling him ‘1000 balls every day’. “I and his father have never told him ‘well done’,” he says.” He knows that his father will appreciate him only when he will play for India for ten years. He will not stop after this.”