‘Workhorse’ called Gautam Gambhir : At 34 years and 334 days, Gautam Gambhir is no youngster. His fitness levels would put any youngster to shame. His willow talks and talks ‘big time’.
Leading India Blue in the ongoing Duleep Trophy 2016-17, Gambhir has had scores of 77, 90, 59 and 94 in the four innings that he has featured thus far.
Speaking at the toss after winning and opting to bat in the final encounter against India Red at the Greater Noida Sports Complex Ground, Gambhir said, “Looking to bat put runs on the board, so that the spinners can capitalise later on. It”s a new game and we need to start well. It”s important to play the first session well, so that you can dominate later on. We will try and bat for as long as possible so that spinners can take advantage later on.”
True to his statement, Gambhir opened the innings alongwith Mayank Agrawal and the duo put on 144 runs for the first wicket unless Agrawal, beaten by a good length delivery from Stuart Binny, went through the drive and ended up giving a catch to Shikhar Dhawan at extra-cover.
Agrawal notched up 57 runs with 7 hits to the fence.
Cheteshwar Pujara, who had a lacklustre outing in West Indies, but was in full flow in the ongoing Duleep Trophy, joined his skipper in the middle. The pair added a valuable 34 runs, when Gambhir wanted to cut a Kuldeep Yadav delivery away which spun away from the left-hander but succeeded only in getting a thick inside edge that went on disturb the furniture behind him.
Gambhir scored 94 runs and was really unlucky to miss on a first-class ton by a whisker. His last first-class century came in December 2014.
His half-century came in 62 balls with 6 hits to the fence, while his score of 94 runs was studded with 8 boundaries in a patient knock of 212 minutes.
Having given a solid start Gambhir walked back to the pavilion with the disappointment of having missed out on a ton.
Pujara continued the good work of his skipper and went on to add 64 runs for the third wicket alongwith Rohit Sharma (30), 120 runs for the fourth wicket alongwith Dinesh Karthik (55) and a massive 243 runs for the fifth wicket alongwith Sheldon Jackson (134).
With these valuable contributions, India Blue declared their first innings at 693 runs for the loss of 6 wickets. Pujara, however, remained unbeaten on a wonderfully made 256 runs with the help of 28 fours in an unfinished innings that lasted 9 hours. He was clearly ‘patience personified’.
India Red skipper, Yuvraj Singh, tried as many as eight bowlers to unsettle the India Blue batsmen but found very little success.
Replying to India Blue’s massive score, India Red notched up 356 runs with the major contribution coming from Stuart Binny, who put on 98 runs with 12 fours and 4 sixes unless Ravindra Jadeja, ‘done him in’ by a delivery that drifted and straightened after pitching marginally on the leg stump and then turned square to hit Binny on the pads.
Unfortunately Binny fell just two runs short of his maiden first-class century.
India Red conceded a lead of 337 runs in the first innings.
Left-armer, Ravindra Jadeja was the chief-wrecker ending with an analysis of 34-9-95-5.
With just 8 minutes of play left for the day, India Blue openers, Gambhir and Agrawal did not take any risk.
Speaking at the end-of-play for the day, Jadeja said, “I didn”t have much idea about the pink ball. I”d heard from my team-mates that it gets soft, so you have to try and bowl quicker through the air. That”s what I was trying at training and at the match. I wanted to bowl wicket-to-wicket to make it uncomfortable for the batsman. After 15-20 overs, the ball became as old as a red ball at 40-45 overs. If you bowled slower, you saw the batsmen use the time to rock back and cut, so I wanted to avoid bowling there. Looking at the game, we aren”t sure yet as to when we will declare. The wicket is flat, so we want to eliminate the prospect of losing, so we may look to build a lead close to 500. While batting, I felt it tough to read the old ball as the shine was gone. Amit Mishra and Kuldeep”s wrists had to be looked at closely.”
Two more days to go in the match and it is sure that Gambhir would definitely want to ‘go for the kill’. He has a lot at stake.