Gautam Gambhir replaces KL Rahul : At 34 years and 350 days, Gautam Gambhir is no youngster. However, his fitness levels would put any youngster to shame. His willow talks and talks ‘big time’.
Exactly 15 days ago, I had written about Gambhir’s excellent performance in Duleep Trophy 2016.
Leading India Blue in the tournament, he had scores of 77, 90, 59, 94 and 36 in the five innings that he had featured, totalling 356 runs at an average of 71.20 which is really very impressive. He successfully led his team to the title win defeating India Red by a huge margin of 355 runs.
Speaking, after winning the toss and electing to bat in the title clash 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.
Gambhir scored 94 runs in the first innings. He 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.
He also chipped in with a valuable 36 runs in the second knock.
Gambhir’s performance in the Duleep Trophy 2016 clearly caught the attraction of the ‘wise men’ in BCCI, who wasted no time in picking the ‘young’ Gambhir as the replacement for the young KLRahul, for the second Test to be played at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. Rahul had picked up a hamstring injury while running between the wickets in the first Test at Kanpur.
Making a ‘comeback’ into the Test Team after a gap of a little over two years, would be like ‘homecoming’ for the southpaw.
Gambhir, as the skipper of Kolkata Knight Riders, is very much a ‘Kolkata boy’ and it would be a delight to see him wield the willow in the Test match.
He last played in the longer format in the fifth and final Test against England in the 2014 Investec Series, a game that Gambhir would definitely not like to recall. He failed to open his account in the first innings and scored just 3 runs in the second knock, post which he was dropped.
Thus far, the stylish left-hander has featured in 56 matches (100 innings – unbeaten on five occasions) and has scored 4,046 runs at a decent average of 42.58 with 206 runs as his individual best. He also has 9 centuries and 21 half-centuries to his credit.
Prior to his being dropped for the first time in 2012, Gambhir and the ‘swashbuckling’ batsman, Virendra Sehwag were the ‘deadliest’ opening pair in world cricket. Together they had amassed 4,412 runs which is the best ‘opening pair’ contribution for Team India in Test matches.
Hopefully Gambhir would find himself in the Playing XI and would be able to display his original form and get to play more Test matches for India.
However, history says the inter-personal relationship between Gambhir and Team India skipper, Virat Kohli, is definitely not something to ‘write home about’. But it is expected that both of them would put their personal issues in the backburner and would strive to showcase their talent for the betterment of Team India.
A win in Kolkata would also be a series win for Team India.