Gautam needs to overcome this ‘Gambhir’ phase

We knew it was coming. Even Gambhir did. Someone, who was once seen as a potential threat to Dhoni’s captaincy, was finally axed from the squad following a series of poor performances. The Delhi lad was lucky to have been a part of the squad despite not scoring a ton in the last three years. The selectors had to take this decision as the left-hander seemed to have lacked confidence, something which the team needs in plenty to combat against the mighty Aussies in the upcoming series.

From the T20 triumph against Pakistan to the World Cup victory against the Lankans on the home soil, Gambhir has played some superb knocks over the years. He has been one of those pillars after Rahul Dravid in whose presence the other players felt free to play their natural game as he held the anchor at one end. He wasn’t as brutal as Sehwag or as dashing as Virat Kohli but still there was something very likeable about Gambhir – his ability to play big knocks out of sheer determination.Thus it is hard to digest the fact that Gambhir’s willow failed to produce a century since January 2010 when he scored one against Bangladesh.

Before cementing his place in Team India, he was a known figure in the domestic circuit but his poor shot selection cost him the 2007 World Cup ticket. But after that the 31-year-old came back with all guns blazing and became an integral part of the team. Gambhir became India’s most consistent batsman in all three formats of the game and his adaptability to the different formats of the game earned him praise and respect from all corners.

After two humiliating losses in away series Dhoni somehow survived his captaincy and his place in the team. If there was someone, who could replace him as a skipper, it was Gambhir. But then the left-hander did nothing substantial to strengthen the debate. Then came a stage when he, along with Sehwag, struggled to get India to good starts and the form of the entire team dipped drastically. The runs had dried up and suddenly the captain-in-waiting became a dejected soul.

Last twelve months have been like a nightmare for Gambhir. He has been involved in controversies, hasn’t been in the good books of Dhoni as well. He was stripped off the vice-captaincy ahead of the Asia cup. Things went murkier when MS Dhoni filed a complaint against him with the BCCI, accusing him of putting his interests above the team and for his self-centred approach. Under-fire Gambhir couldn’t do much about it, and runs deserted him in that critical phase.

Gambhir was trying his best to stay at the crease, but he failed to convert those starts into big knocks. His stay at the crease hardly bothered the opponents as his teammates had a difficult time running between the wickets with him as he was involved with several run-outs. When asked about his poor form, Gambhir defended himself along with Sehwag by saying, "We still average 53 as an opening pair, which I think is one of the best when it comes to opening the batting in world cricket." "There are not many opening pairs who have played for such a long time and have an average of 53 per innings. And if 53 is not good enough, I don`t know what is good enough.” It was an arrogant statement and one could sense that it was just a matter of time he was dropped.

It remains a mystery about how form has eluded him for so long. Throughout this phase the Kolkata Knight Riders’ skipper has been consistently poking at deliveries outside the off-stump and has been caught in the slips cordon on most of the occasions.

I sometimes wonder if just like his name, the left-hander has been focusing on playing too much of ‘Gambhir’ cricket. While his teammates are often seen having fun during the net sessions, the left-handed batsman is hardly seen smiling.

Gambhir should make the most of this opportunity and utilize the time to gain back his momentum. He needs to find out what made him India’s most consistent batsman from his comeback after the 2007 World Cup to the 2011 World Cup final.

Had he scored three more runs in the final of the ICC World Cup 2011, his contribution (97) in that significant innings would have become even more memorable. A century in a World Cup final is no joke. Add to that the huge pressure of the Wankhede crowd and it looks like a marathon innings. Gambhir has given us some of the best cricketing memories to cherish.

He is just 31 and has enough cricket left in him. And just like he did after the 2007 World Cup, there is no reason why he can’t bounce back from this ‘Gambhir’ phase.