Gautam Gambhir’s biggest enemies used to be self-doubt and deliveries bowled just outside the off-stump. Eventually, he made peace with both.
The ensuing period saw him bat like a prince, so much so that his 1,134 runs in 2008 saw him bring home the prestigious ICC Test Cricketer of the Year award in 2009. The next year was no less spectacular. Gambhir averaged a staggering 90.87 in five Tests. The period saw him score four centuries in five Tests, including that marathon, match-saving effort in Napier. The year 2010 was less productive, fetching him 524 at only 33.
And it hasn’t gotten any better. Fathom this: in the last two years, the left-hander has scored just 827 runs in 28 outings. Hang on, his last hundred came in Chittagong over two years ago. Reams have already been written on his fading partnership with Virender Sehwag, but that rare 100-plus association in Ahmedabad has kept the critics quiet for now.
On Friday, Gambhir got the second Test off to a crackling start, making James Anderson pay for dishing out a half-volley on his pads. The very next ball, the English pace spearhead bowled a similar delivery, but the only glitch (for Gambhir, that is) was that it held its line. It took Anderson 26 overs to net a fish (Zaheer Khan) in Ahmedabad; on Friday, he needed just two deliveries.
As it stands, Gambhir has new enemies: deliveries like the one bowled by Anderson and those he plays onto his stumps, especially in ODIs. It must be said that Gary Kirsten had a huge role to play in his resurrection, but Duncan Fletcher era seems to have coincided with Gambhir’s slump in form. His record in England (102 runs in six innings) and Australia (181 runs in eight innings) during the course of the 0-8 drubbing was nothing to write home about either.
He’s been given too long a rope and that’s sending out a wrong message to players like M Vijay, Abhinav Mukund and even Ajinkya Rahane. Sandeep Patil flummoxed many by announcing that Rahane was in the squad as a middle-order batsman. The chief selector would do his acumen some good by taking a look at the Mumbaikar’s record as an opener in first-class record. And by his own admission, Rahane is willing to bat “anywhere my captain wants me to”.
Back to Gambhir and it’s, perhaps, time to show him the door. He seems to have used the long rope to go down the mountain peak, not scale it. Ah yes, the Ranji Trophy is going on.