Gautam Gambhir: Cometh the final, cometh the man
Gautam Gambhir has decided to hang up his boots as a professional cricketer. He was undoubtedly one of the most exciting batsmen to have ever played for India and his records speak for themselves. The man certainly had a penchant for rising up to big occasions.
The angry young man of Indian cricket played stellar roles in the final matches of both the ICC T20 World Cup in 2007 and ICC World Cup 2011 that India won under the leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. A rare feat which one can only dream about.
The image of a 5 feet 6 inches tall Gambhir dancing down the pitch against opposition bowlers will forever remain etched in the memory of cricket fans. Team India was pitted against arch-rivals Pakistan at the Wanderers in the final of the first T20 World Cup.
Relied on his footwork to find gaps
The mainstays of Indian batting line up like Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, and Yusuf Pathan failed to deliver after opting to bat against a formidable bowling attack which included the likes of Umar Gul, Mohammad Asif and Sohail Tanvir. But Gambhir cared little about reputation.
He was a bit cautious, to begin with, but started timing the ball to perfection as his stay on the 22 yards got longer. He never really tried to knock the leather off the ball, but instead relied on his nimble footwork to find the gaps on a day when the outfield was very fast.
The Delhi cricketer did not hesitate a bit to step out against Shahid Afridi to launch him into the stands over the cow corner. He completed his half-century courtesy a single through the covers off Umar Gul.
75 runs from 54 deliveries in the T20 final
In the death overs, Gambhir smacked one into the scoreboard from a length ball offered by Gul with equal panache. But a cheeky attempt to steer a full tossed delivery towards the fine leg brought his downfall in the same over.
Gambhir made 75 runs in 54 deliveries which helped India to post a competitive total of 157 for 5 wickets in 20 overs. India eventually won the match in an epic fashion that went right down to the last ball. But the opener's innings was crucial. He was the highest scorer in the final.
In fact, he was the second highest scorer of the tournament in South Africa in 2007 with 227 runs from second matches with a strike rate of 175.
Episode 2: Gambhir takes guard when India are 0-1
Chasing 275 in the final of ICC World Cup 2011, India lost Virender Sehwag off the second ball when not a single run was added on the board. Gautam Gambhir had to come out into the middle and face the music. Sachin too got out quickly.
Gambhir flicked a Lasith Malinga delivery from his pads through the leg side for a boundary to get off the mark. He looked determined from the word go and started rebuilding the innings along with the then youngster Virat Kohli, after the early jolts.
Gambhir was batting on 30 when Nuwan Kulasekara failed to grab an opportunity at long off to dismiss the left-hander. India still needed 207 runs to win the match at that stage of the game. It proved costly for Sri Lanka as the Indian did not look back after that.
A match-winning 109-run stand with the skipper
Kohli did not last long on the crease. Gambhir was then joined by skipper MS Dhoni and the two put together a historic 109-run partnership that earned India their second ever ICC World Cup on home soil.
Gambhir was fluent in his stroke play in front of a packed house at the Wankhede on that night of 2 April 2011 which instilled the hope that something special was going to happen. He went on to score 97 runs from 122 deliveries.
97 runs: A gold standard of batting
Gambhir's knock was studded with seven delightful boundaries that once again showcased his immaculate footwork and timing. He may have fallen short by three runs to score a hundred but his score of 97 will remain as a gold standard of batting for years to come.
But after having done all the hard work, a rush of blood from Gambhir saw him give away his wicket to Thisara Perera. He tried to give the bowler a charge but only managed to play the ball onto the stumps.
Dhoni along with Yuvraj Singh completed the record run chase in the 49th over itself. But all the credit goes to Gambhir for he steadied the ship when it was starting to go off the radar when India lost early wickets.
Gautam Gambhir in his illustrious career has many records to his credit but his match-winning performances in the two World Cup finals occupy a special place in the annals of cricket history.