Can Gautam Gambhir come good for India in his third coming?
Gambhir was picked for the remaining two Tests against New Zealand.
On Tuesday night, when a large part of India was just about hitting the bed, one man’s phone would not have stopped beeping and for a fair enough reason. How many of you reading this piece would have experienced the feeling when the company you got picked into, calls you up to say,”Hi, you are hired for the job and can join us next week,”
It is one of the most thrilling moments one can experience and is hard to describe when it happens.
Gautam Gambhir must have gone through something similar that night when he found that he had been asked to pack his bags and leave for Kolkata to replace KL Rahul in the Indian squad for the second as well as the Third test in Indore, which begins next week.
Even for a player as passionate and straight-forward as him, this moment would have had a touch of emotion attached to it.
The journey to donning the India colours again has been a long, but more importantly a tough one. When he was dropped for the first time after the 2012 series against England, many felt there was enough reason to, as he had gotten out in a similar manner more often than not.
He received a big boost in the last part of 2013 when the then-Test captain MS Dhoni said that Gambhir was India's third opener if anything happens to either of Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay. These were the sort of words that he wanted to hear at the time when there was talk going around about whether India should go for youth, someone like a Jiwanjyot Singh, who had done well for Punjab at the time and not look at those who had been discarded for a while.
Second coming arrives but it is one to forget
Five months after Dhoni made that statement before leaving for the tour to South Africa, Gambhir showed why he was right in saying that he was the back-up to the two openers.
During the 2014 IPL season, he led the Kolkata Knight Riders from a dead-and-buried position to the title and also made vital contributions with the bat, scoring 335 runs in 16 matches at an average of 22.33 and a strike-rate of 114.33.
Those exploits meant that he earned a recall into the side for the long tour to England in 2014 as the third opener and after warming the benches for the first three Test matches, he was drafted into the starting XI, in place of a struggling Shikhar Dhawan. The opportunity to impress had come, it was time now for execution.
Sadly, it is in that aspect that the left-hander fell short terribly. In swinging conditions of Manchester, Stuart Broad angled one into him and he was caught at gully for 4 in the first innings.
In the second innings, he was caught own the leg-side for 18 of the same bowler as India capitulated in the Saturday afternoon heat of Old Trafford.
The management, however, decided to give him another go at The Oval. but the outcome didn’t change. Gambhir nicked one through to Buttler for a duck in the first innings and then was run-out for 3 in the second innings.
More than the single-digits scores, it was his manner of dismissal that was more concerning. In the first innings both at Manchester and at the Oval, he showed that his susceptibility outside the off-stump had not completely been sorted out.
He was expectedly dropped once again and his performance was yet another example that while IPL performances were something to take note of, it isn’t the only indicator for selection of players.
Help from Justin Langer and runs started to flow again
In yet another attempt to make a return to India colours, Gambhir began to experiment and at the start of 2015, took the long flight to Perth to consult former Australian batsman Justin Langer on what he could do to achieve that. The result was a decent IPL season, but a not so great Ranji season and his wait for that call-up continued.
2016, however, was to bring a new lease of life for him. The IPL proved to be a fruitful couple of months, where he made 411 runs in 15 games and he backed that up with a very successful outing in the Duleep Trophy, where he made four fifties and captained India Red to the title.
The bells for his comeback began ringing again post those exploits and after missing out on the initial squad, he was drafted in as a replacement for Rahul on Tuesday night.
Can he come good now?
Right now, Gambhir is at a stage in his career, where he will know that another opportunity will be hard to come by and if he needs the third wind of his career to turn out to be a success, then scoring runs at every chance that he gets is the only way forward.
Kolkata will be a good place for him to get off to a fine ‘restart’ and if he does have a good game, then we can surely expect an interesting season ahead for Indian cricket.