LEICESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 26: Gautam Gambhir of India batting during the Tour Match between Leicestershire and India at Grace Road on June 26, 2014 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Gautam Gambhir : The Desperation, The Hunger and a Glorious Career

“He never tries to be politically correct, he says what he thinks and he does what he says. Gautam Gambhir puts his money where he puts his tongue whether it’s about bearing the lifetime education expenses of a martyr’s daughter or it’s about bringing equality for the transgender community. Try being Gautam Gambhir? You simply can’t. because it’s not easy being one!”

Gautam Gambhir made his Test debut in 2004 against Australia, when India were looking for a solid opening partner for Virender Sehwag in Test Cricket. Since then he was in and out of the team due to his inconsistency, replaced by the likes of Aakash Chopra and Wasim Jaffer. Though he got a decent string of scores in ODI cricket, he couldn’t make a name for himself and finally was dropped from India’s 2007 ODI World Cup squad. As he says, it left him ‘heartbroken’.

Come the 2007 WT20, a rejuvenated Gautam Gambhir was in all moods to help India to the inaugural title. As everyone and the history books remember, he top scored in the final with 75 (54) to get India a decent score to defend. Though Gambhir didn’t get the Man of the Match award because Irfan Pathan overshadowed him with his match winning spell of 3-16, but his innings was certainly a gem that everyone cherishes in memories.
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Gambhir’s unique style of jumping (stepping-out) down the track and hitting the medium pacers over the 30-yard circle was becoming a headache for the bowlers and the opposition captains to set the field for him. Indian subcontinent players are often regarded as good players of spin and Gambhir certainly lies at the top in that list. If you’re a spinner, He doesn’t just dominate you, but he just kills it. When he plays a square cut you try to bowl him a bit full the next one, and he surprises you with a slog over mid-wicket. And when you try to fetch it a bit short again he will step down the track and hit you over short cover for a couple. Gambhir possessed an artistic wizardry while playing spin,

Naturally known as an aggressive opener, Gambhir brought calm to his batting and was at his peak in 2008. He topped all the batting charts and became the only Indian to score five consecutive Test hundreds in five matches, only to become ICC Test Cricketer of the year the same year. When India toured New Zealand in 2009 and was in trouble in the second Test, Gambhir played the innings of his life. A marathon knock of 137 (436) helped India secure a draw from the jaws of defeat. India finally went on to the win the series 1-0 and it was their first Test series victory after 41 years in New Zealand. For this effort the stand in captain in that match Virender Sehwag termed him as ‘The Second Wall’ of India.

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The Unnoticed Innings

  1. In CB Series 2008, chasing 318 against the mighty Australians India lost Tendulkar and Sehwag early at 45-2. Gambhir played a sublime innings of 113(119) and almost won it with his partnership with Robin Uthappa. Though India lost that match but Gambhir showed sparks of what he would be doing in the coming years. Gambhir was India’s highest run getter in CB series with 440 runs but got overshadowed by Sachin Tendulkar who had got the Man of The Series award.
  2. When India lost Tendulkar and Sehwag early for just 23 runs on the board chasing 318 against SriLanka in the 4th ODI, Gambhir came in his own shores and scored a not out 150*(137). He made the chase look like a walk in the park for him and in the end also gave his MoM award to the youngster Virat Kohli for his brilliant hundred in the same match. It spoke huge volumes about Gambhir the sportsperson. In some other match after getting MoM, He also showed his displeasure towards the tradition of rewarding one individual after victory in a team sport. For him the paramount thing is team’s victory and other individual awards are just secondary.
  3. Chasing 216 against SriLanka in the first T20 in 2009, Gambhir scored a quickfire 19 ball fifty. He took Malinga to the cleaners hitting 5 fours in an over. He took on Malinga even before Kohli made it cool at Hobart in 2012. All these innings across formats in all these years made sure that he is a champion batsman in every format of the game.

 

Gambhir’s rich vein of form at the top of the order helped India drew a Test Series in South Africa in 2010 and he was the second highest run getter for India. In the same year, when Gambhir was appointed the captain against New Zealand for the home ODI series, he lead from the front and helped India whitewash the Kiwis 5-0 with himself being the highest run scorer of the series.
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Gambhir entered the grandest stage of them all with an all-important fifty in the quarter final against the might Aussies. In the World Cup 2011 final, as they say, cometh the hour, cometh the man! Yet another day and India lost Tendulkar and Sehwag in a crunch situation. But then, who knows, maybe for Gautam Gambhir it was just another day. He played the innings of his life,  took calculated risks, anchored the innings and went for shots when needed. As a renowned player against spin, he handled Muralitharan and Randiv with ease and also allowed MS Dhoni to play his shots by constantly rotating strike. Before getting out he made sure India were in safe hands to go for a win. Arguably it was one of the greatest world cup final innings of all time. And certainly the greatest innings of Gambhir’s ODI career which made India lift the world cup after a long wait of 28 years.

Gambhir has mentioned many times that the only thing that matters for him is a win once he enters the field. He is always desperate to get a win and he says if he is not playing for a win there is no point playing it. He gives his all on the field. The intensity and energy remains the same whether he is playing for India or in IPL or Ranji Trophy. Gambhir changed the fortunes of a struggling IPL side KKR. With his hunger to win and the never say die attitude he went on to win two IPL titles for KKR who are now considered a strong IPL side. The credit goes to Gambhir more than it goes to anyone else.

Gambhir is maybe a bit aggressive, not so politically correct and a bit controversial at times, but a natural leader who brings everything to the table for a win. And when finally he thought he doesn’t have the intensity and hunger left, he calls it a day in his own style – without even wanting to get a farewell game or so.

We have seen many great left handed batsmen representing India. Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh certainly the most celebrated amongst them. But as we have seen Ganguly struggled in T20s and Yuvraj was genuinely poor in Test Cricket. Arguably, Gautam Gambhir, is the most complete southpaw across formats India have ever had.

Gautam Gambhir doesn’t bring anything to the table, he brings the table! The champion bows out. The legacy lives on. Thank you Gautam Gambhir!

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