“I'm disappointed but not defeated; I'm cornered but not a coward. Grit my partner, courage my pride...for, I must fight, I must fight..,” Gautam Gambhir posted the status on social networking site Twitter hours after the Board of Control for Cricket had revealed the squad for the New Zealand Test a few days back.
His fans slammed the BCCI for not handing him a comeback while many others believed it was the end of the road in international cricket for the iconic left-hander. But as luck would have it India’s first choice opener KL Rahul who has been in scintillating form off late got injured while playing in the first Test and Gambhir was roped in as his replacement.
Some experts believe it was Gambhir’s (captains the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL) knowledge of the Eden strip which got him back into the squad but the Delhi-born cricketer isn’t too keen on listening now and is raring to get down on the field.
But doesn’t this weighty comeback from Gambhir remind us off a certain Sourav Ganguly? How can we forget the struggle Dada had to undergo to get his spot back into the playing XI?
“Main aapka Dada. Aap bhule toh nahin? I am practicing hard to make a comeback. But please cheer for my team,” a passionate advertisement featuring Ganguly had stirred the nation back then when he was dropped from the Indian side.
The move had led to widespread criticism around the country and Greg Chappell, who was then coaching India was the core of it all.
It was all on the high for the Bengal icon in 2003 as he led India to the final of the World Cup and later that year was instrumental in his side retaining the Border-Gavaskar trophy. Thereafter he clinched victories in Pakistan and it turned him into a cult figure but instead of it being a stepping stone to larger things he slipped down a slope.
In 2004, Ganguly withdrew himself from the Nagpur Test against the Australians citing injury and India lost the series 1-2. From that point onwards, it all fell off like a pack of cards for the southpaw. He himself could not find form which coincided with India’s poor performances. It continued for a little while but the boiling point was reached when he had his differences with Chappell. A few matches later, he was stripped off his captaincy and dropped.
Dravid was appointed the new captain while Ganguly was left to battle board politics and form. He first refused to play domestic cricket but then saw it was the only way of getting back into the team.
His courageous 30s in Karachi did not help his cause and was dropped again in 2006 and many felt it was the end of the road for the talismanic cricketer.
Ganguly made one of the best comebacks in cricket history in 2007
But he worked harder than before and after scoring a bagful of runs in the domestic circuit and he was recalled into the side for the away series in South Africa in 2006-2007.
It was just the platform Ganguly needed to answer back his critics and he did them with the willow. He ended the series as the highest run-getter for his side and then went on to accumulate four half tons after his return to the ODIs. He backed these performances up with scintillating knocks against England where he finished second highest grosser in the tour. Thereafter he smashed two consecutive hundreds at home against Pakistan, the second of which was a spectacular 239 at Bangalore.
He then retired from international cricket in 2008.
It has almost been a same roller coaster ride for Gambhir. Though not similar in style, Gambhir is just the replica of Ganguly when one speaks of determination and hard work. Only a few days back, the prolific left-hander scored a stunning 94 in the final of the Duleep trophy final but it wasn’t enough to get his place in the squad initially.
Though now, he finally has a chance to deliver at the international level again he says he feels the nervousness of a debutant.
Excitement of a debutant, certainty of experienced, nervousness of a novice...am feeling it all. Eden here I come loaded with ambitions.— Gautam Gambhir (@GautamGambhir) September 27, 2016
But the battle has been a steely one for the hero of two world cup finals who started off in 2003. It took him four more years to be a regular in the side. And he had his first big opportunity to impress in the T20 World Cup in 2007.
Gambhir did not disappoint either and came up with a match-winning 75 to help India lift the trophy. The knock also got him back into the Test XI, another chance which he grabbed with both hands. After a few fifties against Sri Lanka in the 2008 series, he blasted his way to eights tons in the next 13 games. Such was his form that Virender Sehwag compared him to the legendary Sunil Gavaskar.
Also read: 5 greatest comebacks in Indian cricket
Gambhir again stole the limelight in the fifty-over World Cup in 2011. In the final against Sri Lanka, it was Gambhir who steadied the sinking Indian ship with a knock of 95. India won the title and the left-hander engraved his name on cricketing history.
Gambhir’s form suffered after the quadrennial event and he went from being sublime to a disaster in Tests. He managed to stay in the Test team until December 2012 but then was dropped.
He last featured in England in 2014 where he notched scores of 3,0,18, 4. He never made the team again.
But all eyes will be on him if he gets to don the Indian whites at the Eden Gardens. Can he do a Ganguly? Only time will tell.