"Dravid sir only tells me one thing " Shubman Gill began to say, after being named Player of the Match in the Under-19 World Cup quarter-final against Bangladesh.
TV cameras then focussed on the India U-19 coach, as he listened to what his player had to say. "He always tells me don't hit the ball in the air and play along the ground," Gill finished. Dravid began to smile, and as Gill walked back with his medal, Dravid followed the batsman for a team selfie.
In the high-pressure semi-final against Pakistan, it is unlikely Gill would have been dwelling on those words, but he put them to practice.
For most of his first 50 runs, Gill shelved the swipe, short-arm jab, upper cut, and the slog sweep. Even after he was set, he looked to bat through without risks. Gill hit only seven boundaries and no sixes in his unbeaten 102, yet had a strike rate of 108.5.
The muscle-powered shots, which he may well bring out for Kolkata Knight Riders this IPL, were traded for sharp singles and twos. His calling for a run was crystal clear and he understood his partners. As India's middle order collapsed around him, Gill kept his composure.
After India were reduced to 166 for 5, Gill delivered a masterclass for someone so young, farming strike and carrying his team to a substantial score. His calmness rubbed off on Anukul Roy, who could have panicked and looked to hit out. Instead, he buckled down too and rotated strike, adding 67 runs that helped India pass 250.
The drama at the end of Gill's innings - he miscued a lofted hit on 97 and the ball fell just short of the fielder running in from cover - was lost on him because he was running as hard he could to complete the run. He hit the next ball straight to long-on, where the catch was dropped, but Gill was busy haring back for the second.
For a moment, he didn't quite realise what had happened, but then let out a roar and pumped his fists as his team stood up to applaud. As he walked back, Gill tucked his red handkerchief deep into his pocket, a charm much like the one Steve Waugh had.
This is the tale behind the handkerchief. Gill had a bad patch for form at the Under-16 level. Then for the next match, he found in his pocket a white handkerchief, and made a hundred to end a string of low scores. The handkerchief was soiled by all the running and diving. For the next match, he carried a red handkerchief and made another hundred. And then it became habit.
Gill's shot selection at the end of India's innings indicated he was looking to clear the boundary despite the field being spread, when he could have so easily played it safe to bring up his hundred. "It didn't matter if I got out on 99, I was thinking I'll try for a four or a six," he said. "The intent was good; luckily it turned out to be a no-ball."
When India were in trouble earlier, however, all Gill did was nudge and run, quite a change for a player who looks to attack. There is backstory there too: "There used to be three-four matches going on [in the Chandigarh maidans] and the leg side was cordoned off, so I had to focus on playing only on the off side. Because of that, I learnt to also play straight and nudge the ball for singles."
Gill is usually quiet and reserved, but lights up when asked about his Under-16 days. He is shy too, and when asked about his emotions while on 99, he merely said: "I was just trying to run as fast as I could, that's all."
There's another side to his personality, though: he's quite the prankster. Prithvi Shaw, the India Under-19 captain listening quietly on the sidelines, jumped in to say: "Sabse mastikhor yehi hai, obviously sabko hasata hai yeh aur Abhishek, but press conferences mein zyada nahi bolta (He's the most mischievous guy in the team, makes everyone laugh along with Abhishek, but doesn't talk much in press conferences). He's a fun chap who keeps pulling everyone's leg off the field."
There's a story about Gill, from the India U-19 tour of England, where he was supposed to treat the team for scoring a century and India winning. "Sabse kanjoos hai (he's a stingy guy), we are still waiting for the treat. He doesn't spend a penny," Abhishek Sharma complained in jest. Gill is supposed to have said he'd treat "if we win the World Cup."