Incredibly enough, contrasting to India’s long held reputation in cricket circuits, the Indian Test team has had an outstanding consistent run in last 18 months. Throughout this duration, India looked like having all the solutions to their problems- brilliant leadership, firm middle-order, solid bench strength, sharp bowling and two rock-solid opening batsmen who not only used to take the shine away from the ball, but also scored runs at great pace to put opposition under quick pressure.
The Delhi-duo of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir became a formidable opening pair and gave respite to the Indian team, which was going through a terrible phase of opening blues. Everybody from Parthiv Patel to Sanjay Bangar and Aakash Chopra to Wasim Jaffer were tried for opening honours with already established Virender Sehwag but none of them- apart from an inning or two of individual brilliance- failed to deliver consistently.
The miserable situation looked perfect for the second-coming of Gambhir. Known as run-machine in domestic circuit, he justified his recall to national squad and proved his mettle with tremendous run-scoring on all surfaces which helped Team India scale new heights.
But the sudden fall of form and runs over last nine innings has caused huge concern for the Indian think-tank. For the people who believe in statistics, Gambhir has aggregated just 86 runs in his last nine completed innings before second Test against New Zealand. Such has been the story of his lean patch of late; Gambhir has been dismissed for three ducks in his last five innings, making 0, 25, 0, 21 & 0.
Though Gambhir is not the first player to go through a bad patch, the timing of this problem could have never been this bad for him.
Presently, Gambhir plays as a specialist opener in Tests and bats at number three in ODIs. Sadly for him, he is facing stiff competition for both spots by the specialist batsmen of those slots.
Murali Vijay, the dashing opener from Chennai, has grabbed the limited chances offered and has proved to be a worthy member of playing Test XI. His hundred against Australia helped India chase a big first innings total and the team management does not have enough convincing answers to explain his exclusion for currently out-of-form Gambhir.
As if the heat for the Test place was not enough, Gambhir also faces equally tough competition when he gets picked up for ODIs. Currently in team as his injury replacement, Delhi team-mate Virat Kohli has impressed everybody with his strokes and has taken all his critics to cleaners with back-to-back centuries in international and domestic cricket.
There is no denying the fact that Gambhir is a class act. Hailed as the best player of spin in India, Gambhir has earned the reputation of being the most complete batsmen of the current era. From Test fifties against Murali and Mendis in 2008 to scoring eight centuries in his next 13 Tests, Gambhir himself raised the expectation bar of performance.
His records all over the world, and particularly the marathon knock at Napier, show that he doesn’t have too many technical flaws in his batting technique. Probably, the fear of under-performance and his liking to play away from the body is doing all the damage to him.
Gambhir is lucky to have full support of skipper MS Dhoni and the team management too has complete faith in his capabilities, but it’s time for him to prove their confidence right.
It’s time to get serious for Gautam Gambhir, else just like the last time at the 2007 World Cup, he will miss out the bus for 2011 World Cup too!