New Delhi | Sudipta Biswas
India’s World Cup winning legend Gautam Gambhir took his time out to hang his boots from all forms of cricket. Delhi’s Ranji Trophy clash against Andhra Pradesh will be his last appearance in the competitive cricket. The southpaw, who was known for his dynamic approach to the game of cricket, always played it with a lot of concentration and passion. For many of his age, cricket could be a lofty profession but he had an out of the world philosophy for it that helped him earn respect from millions of cricket loving fans of this nation. So, when he finally made up his mind to take rest from the hectic schedule of the gentleman’s game, a lot of sweet moments rushed down the memory lane.
A moderately-built resolute human being with a grit of championing the tough moments on and off the fields made Gambhir a fans’ favourite. He is a big match player. He stood firm in crunch situations, faced bouncers, the verbal volleys from the oppositions simultaneously, but never let them get under his skin. He launched measured attacks and fought back to stamp his authority over the opponents to make things easy for his fellow cricketers. He was never short of time in encouraging young cricketers. There was also a time when he wanted to share Man of the Match award with then rising star Virat Kohli to motivate him.
— Gautam Gambhir (@GautamGambhir) December 5, 2018
For Gambhir, the team was his first and foremost priority. Thus, he was never seen letting personal achievements get much attention over the team’s performances. Nevertheless, he would be one of the big names in the list of deserving players who hardly got a chance to lead India in international cricket. Gambhir’s attitude and his on and off the field activities have a lot of familiarities with his predecessor Sourav Ganguly, the legendary captain who transformed Indian cricket into what it today.
Career-defining moments- A big match player
In 2007 and 2011, the two defining years of Gambhir’s illustrative career, he played a vital role in winning India the only World T20 and the second World Cup title respectively. On both occasions, Gambhir stood up and set the momentum for India’s win. In the inaugural World T20 final against Pakistan when the Men in Blue kept losing wickets from one end Gambhir was expected to be panicked, instead, he stood tall in the crease and roared back to rattle the opposition bowlers during his instrumental 75 runs knock at New Wanderers in Johannesburg. If MS Dhoni’s leadership skills aided India to keep Pakistan under pressure throughout the match, Gambhir was the man who helped India in setting a decent total on board.
However, this is not the only time the aggressive batsman did it for India. He brought back the memory of 2007 in the 2011 World Cup final when India was left to chase down a colossal target of 275 set by Sri Lanka. It was the time when 250 plus score was still being regarded as a tough challenge for a chasing side. At the very early stage, Lasith Malinga of Sri Lanka sent back two big names of world cricket-Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag. With the fall of these two stalwarts, many Indian fans lost their hope of winning the second World Cup title after 1983.
But, there is a popular saying that every new beginning comes from some other ending. Gambhir, whose contribution to Indian cricket has often been overshadowed by the stakeholders of Indian cricket, showed his characters when he built a match-winning partnership with young Virat Kohli to put India’s chase on track. Now, it would not be an exaggeration to say that it was Gambhir’s willpower and strong cricketing wisdom that helped India to recover from early hiccups. He did what he never usually loved to do. He loves to play tough cricket, thus, he never stepped back from accepting challenges.
Though he is an ultra-active cricketer he never loved to pull sprint between the wickets. He rather loves jogging, pushing the ball in the cover region. But, the same Gambhir gave a dive to save his wicket since he knew it how important his wicket was in the grand finale of the World Cup. That muddied jersey is now part of some of the most iconic images of Indian cricket that provoke emotions within the cricketing fandom. It is a memorabilia. It showed his dedication to his country, to the fans who had to wait for 28 long years to see their nation lifting the coveted trophy.
When Gambhir’s resolute 97 runs innings made the foray for India’s win it had become rather easy for MS Dhoni to carry forward the job half done. Even after such a significant innings; which set the momentum for India’s empathic victory, Gambhir’s hard work was not recognised at all. I still remember how fans got divided over the deserving candidate for the Man of the Match award of the mega final. The panel, which decides the MoM awardee of the summit clash, let the popularity prevails over hard work. As a result, the skipper- Dhoni- who also played an equally important inning of 91 not out- full of glamorous shots – was considered for the coveted award.
Unappreciated & Overshadowed
Gambhir, the unsung hero of India cricket, is a victim of India cricketing prejudices. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has often been guilty of not appreciating their unsung heroes who are the reasons behind its current state today. It always runs behind popularity and money but is short of time in identifying stars.
From Rahul Dravid to Gambhir, BCCI has never thought of giving due respect to them- who showed grit and skills on the field to put Indian cricket on the world map. Though Gambhir has not had the flamboyance of Virender Sehwag, the elegance of Dravid or the Midas touch of Dhoni he was a quick learner of new things which helped him to become an exquisite opener across all formats of the game.
An institutional identification was never on the cards for Gambhir but he was never being deprived of fans’ love. Today, what Indian cricket has achieved in last one decade, Gambhir is one of the key reasons behind all of them.
So, thanks to Gambhir for entertaining us. Wish him a happy post-retirement life.
(Disclaimer | The views expressed by the writer are strictly his own and not of Ground Report)