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The Gambhir Conundrum - Prashanto Banerji - The Sunday Indian
 
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The Gambhir Conundrum

 

PRASHANTO BANERJI | Issue Dated: December 15, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : Virat Kohli | Sachin Tendulkar | Australia |
 

Impressed?!! Well, you better be… A week ago, in this very space, I had suggested that out of favour opener, Gautam Gambhir had to make the team if India is to rule the cricketing roost in the half decade to come. Days later, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the man many believe was responsible for the southpaw’s ouster, has suggested that the team to South Africa might have been better served with Gambhir’s presence than without.

To understand why Gautam Gambhir’s return to the team is inevitable, we’ll have to understand the whys and hows of his expulsion from the team. How did an opener who has proven the mettle of his skills and his character with commanding performances at home and abroad, in Tests, ODIs and T20s, lose his way and go from being the vice-captain to a non-starter?

When Gauti was dropped for the home series against Australia earlier this year, the story doing the rounds was his run of bad form since the series in England had led to his banishment. But the cold truth of statistics would tell you that Gambhir, with two 50s and some near half-centuries, was well on the mend if not back to his blazing best. Then why the boot?

Hidden under the ominous clouds of successive series losses at home and abroad was the darkening mood in the dressing room. The captain had publicly berated his once-upon-a-time deputy for his self-centred approach and then there was that infamous run-in with the man who usurped him as the vice-captain and the crown prince of Indian cricket – Virat Kohli. His success as the captain of the Knight Riders would have added impetus to the clash, intensifying his usually frothing-at-the-rim competitive confidence and also set alarm bells ringing in the Royal Challengers and Super Kings  lockers at the time.  Mahi of course has been a devoted team man and hasn’t shied away from taking a tough stand for what he believes is best for the team. And to his credit, his decisions have always been impersonal and purely professional as far as the world can tell. So Gautam’s time in the wilderness wasn’t only about him finding form but also reining in his attitude and aggression and channelizing it through his batting rather than letting it fracture the team spirit. And now that he seems to have both found form and also perhaps tempered his approach off the field, Dhoni seems to have no qualms about bringing the pocket dynamite back into the mix.

And it must be said that at that time, it was in the interest of the team for gambhir to take a break. Otherwise, in the wake of those losses to England and Australia, cracks of the kind that surfaced during the Waseem-Waqar tug of war in Pakistan and clipped the air-borne wings of what was then the most talented team in world cricket could have divided the Indian team as well and pushed it off the course to the greatness that is now within kissing distance for this team.
But now, gambhir’s return is inevitable. After all, good though he may be, Murali Vijay isn’t a patch yet on Gambhir’s championship caliber skills and mind-set. It is only a matter of time before Gambhir comes back into the Test side for another good run as the senior statesman in a very young team. And his replacement, when it is his turn to retire, would be another Delhi bat, Unmukt Chand. The 20 year old has the brains and the batting to make it big on the biggest stage, his poor showing in last season’s IPL notwithstanding.

What of the others? Virat Kohli has proven himself and has reminded of Sachin Tendulkar in more ways than one. The most striking comparison is the way in which Virat stood tall in Australia amongst the rubble of his team during a whitewash, just the way a young Sachin had done in 1992 with that legendary hundred at Perth. 

Cheteshwar Pujara should be cementing his impressive credentials on the South African pitches while Shikhar Dhawan and the resurgent Rohit Sharma should be looking to convert their ODI successes on foreign soil into Test triumphs as well.

At this stage in the debate comes in the question of the sixth batsman. Should he be a pure batsman or an all-rounder. And who are the men most likely to battle for this spot?
Next week, I will offer my two bit to try and settle an issue which has needled selectors ever since the great Dev of Indian cricket decided to hang up his well worn boots.

But before I go, an apology to Ajinkya Rahane. How easy it is for us scribes to write off a man and all his future with a few callous punches of the keyboard. I thought nothing of all your sweat, toil, tons and dreams before dismissing your chances to living all those bathed in blue dreams of yours and binning them with my predictions. For your sake and for the sake of Indian cricket, I hope you prove me wrong and inundate us with greater riches than we on the side-lines have dared to imagine for Indian cricket. And until then do forgive me for calling it like I see it, that though your talents are undeniable, those that stand before you have proven hungrier and stronger so far…

Anyway, the curtains are about part and the first act of this epic contest shall soon be underway. May our hopes, and our horses, live up to their billing. Amen!

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Post CommentsPost Comments
Posted By: Harrish Kumar | Bangalore | December 14th 2013 | 16:12
Well its time for BCCI to consider a better rotation policy like their counterparts Aussies, to give equal opportunities to every deserving player. Likes of Gautis deserves better treatment for their service in the field of cricket.




Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017