Team India achieved the No.1 ranking in Test Cricket in 2009 under the leadership of MS Dhoni. The 2007 WT20 win helped Indian fans erase the World cup disaster earlier that year but were struggling in test cricket after series defeats in Australia and Sri Lanka in 2008.
The resurrection began in 2008 Border Gavaskar Trophy which India won at home and in next 12 months they scaled Mt.Everest and became best in tests.
There is one man who had a lion’s share in taking India to No.1 Rankings. He is none other than Gautam Gambhir. After Wasim Jaffer was axed from the Indian side in 2008, Gambhir became permanent in the test team. However, 2009 saw a homecoming of him as a batsman.
It all started on a cold, chilly morning in Napier. India was fighting to save the test match. Just when they needed someone to step up and say, “I will do the job!” Gambhir delivered. India was asked to follow on after trailing by 314 runs. Gambhir stuck there and played a defiant knock of 137 off 436 balls. It was a mammoth match saving effort that prevented New Zealand from squaring the series.
The second hundred came in the very next test match at Wellington, this time is not so trying circumstances. After India were leading by 120 odd runs before Gambhir smashed his way to 169 at Wellington. The match however ended in a draw, thanks to stubborn resistance from New Zealand’s lower order. However, India had already won the series 1-0.
Sri Lanka toured India later in 2009 for a full tour of 3 tests, 2 T20Is, and 5 ODIS. It was going to be a litmus test for Lankans but shockingly, Indians were left on back foot in 1st test at Motera and were fighting to save the test. Gambhir once again did what he does the best, show resistance. This time a determined 114 was enough to save the test and now the left hander had a hat-trick of centuries.
The action moved to Kanpur for the next test. Indians batting first, dominated right from the word go, not giving Sri Lanka a glimmer of the chance to come back in the game. Gambhir marched his way to 167 scoring 4th hundred on the trot in India’s innings victory.
He missed the 3rd test against Sri Lanka at Mumbai because of his sister’s wedding. He made a comeback in the series that followed, India’s tour of Bangladesh in January 2010. In the first test at Dhaka, Indians were bowled out for 143. Fortunately, bowlers kept India in the game and now India needed a big score in 2nd Innings. Once again Gambhir stood up to the challenge and got another hundred.
He had 5 centuries on a trot now and needed just one to equal Don Bradman’s record of 6. In the next test at Chittagong, he fell for 68. As he left the field, he had anguish on his face. The world record was so close, yet so far!
After the hundred in Dhaka, Gambhir has never scored a test hundred for India again. His dip in form continued for a couple of years before he was finally axed in 2013. He made a couple of brief comebacks but couldn’t cash in on given opportunities. As of now, he remains out of selector’s favor.
He may never play again for India. But he will always be remembered as India’s man of all seasons, for he was always there when India needed someone to step up, be it World Cup final, WT20 final or saving a test match in grueling conditions.
– by Atharva Apte