By Syed Akrama:
Gautam Gambhir will turn 35 this month. He doesn’t have a lot of time left to represent the Indian team. After a gap of two years, he got a chance to play in the remaining of the ongoing India vs. New Zealand series.
He was a regular on the Indian side till 2012. Due to bad form, he missed the whole of the 2013 international test season. Although he was given a chance to make a comeback in 2014 during India’s tour of England, he could only manage to make 25 runs from four innings, and since then we haven’t seen much of Gambhir.
He was part of the Indian team when it was making its way to the top, getting better with each game. He played with the likes of Dravid, Sehwag, Ganguly, Tendulkar, Laxman, Kumble, Bhajji, Zaheer Khan and Dhoni. His contributions to the Indian side puts him in the top league of Indian cricketers.
Recipient of the ICC Test Player of the Year Award, Gambhir also landed the number one spot in ICC Test rankings in 2009. I won’t go into detailed statistics because it is readily available on the internet but I do want to highlight a few things which are easily forgotten by many.
India couldn’t make it past the group stage at the ICC ODI World Cup in 2007. A ‘rookie’ team was what everybody was calling the team that entered the ICC T20 World Cup, a few months later and eventually emerged as the winners. In the final match against Pakistan, India managed to put a score of 157 on the board at the end of 20 overs. Out of the 157, Gambhir contributed a total of 75 runs. He scored nearly 50% of the total and nobody can deny that his knock played an instrumental role in India’s victory.
India also cruised into the finals of the ICC ODI World Cup in 2011. In 36 years of ODI World Cup history, no team had ever managed to win the tournament while they were playing at their home ground. Sri Lanka had set a difficult target of 275 for the Indian side. It was just the second delivery into the Indian innings when Malinga knocked Sehwag out. With two wickets down at 31 and Sehwag & Tendulkar back into the pavilion, a dark cloud hovered over India’s chances of winning the world cup.
Gambhir took over the game. He built a strong partnership with Kohli and Dhoni. He played a responsible knock but got out when he was just three runs shy of a century. Again, Gambhir proved his mettle at a very crucial stage. He laid the foundation and built his innings around it. He made way for India to win the world cup after 28 long years.
He also has the record of leading the Indian side to 6 victories out of 6 matches against New Zealand while he was the ODI captain. His leadership skills came out in full view when he took charge of the Kolkata Knight Riders after Ganguly. He has two IPL titles too under his belt.
Today the Indian team might be among the best, but we do have a couple of inconsistent players. This year we have a long test season, and we need someone with experience to take control of the top order so that we don’t crumble under pressure.
We can’t predict if the end of Gambhir’s career is near, especially after we saw the legendary Ashish Nehra make his way back into the team after a huge gap. Gambhir has been performing consistently at the domestic level. It is but fair to give him the chance to play for the Indian side again.
As as a ’90s kid, he is probably the last player of immense talent that I’ll see playing for India in the Test cricket format. He has earned himself a significant place in India’s cricketing history with his hard work and patience. I’ll be really happy to see him score a century again. He shall remain a cricketing legend for many, especially for the kids born in the ’90s.