Aggressive. Determined. Swashbuckling. Exuberant. Patient. Mature. All adjectives that one would associate with a certain Gautam Gambhir, for his performances over the past year, in all forms of the game. The real, the abridged and the super shortened! In many ways, he is a prime example of what a modern day cricketer should be. In one word, an Adaptor"! In the recently concluded series against New Zealand, he showed that by batting for almost eleven hours (642 minutes to be exact) , he had all the strength within and on the outside to stand his ground and save a test match for his country. That was one incident that made people like us ever watchful journalists, look at Gautam in a very Gambhir( serious) light.
As an avid cricket lover, it is understood that Test cricket will always be seen as the benchmark to assess performances. And in New Zealand, Gambhir showed that he had the mental resolve to tackle tasks for his team and stand tall, despite his otherwise short build! Scoring 445 runs in three tests , crowning off his commendable batting performance with a solid score of 167 in the third test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington and with a superb average of 89 is something that the southpaw would happily take back with him in his bag of memories from New Zealand. Statistics speak volumes for Gambhir, but if one was to relive situations then there"s more gloss that would be coated on his success.
If one was to highlight a zone that stood out most, from Gambhir"s feat in the test series, then the marathon innings that he played in the second test at Napier would win hands down. He batted a mammoth 642 mins ( almost 11 hours) for his 137 and helped his side save the test match and maintain the lead. For viewers and spectators alike this innings from Gambhir was totally unreal. Mostly because he is expected to play aggressive and attacking cricket with short bursts of adrenalin, sending discerning crowds into raptures of delight. But this one, rock-solid display of batting quickly catapulted him into another realm, that of a batsman who could play the role of the adaptor" to perfection. India had scored 305 in reply to the host"s first innings score of 619! The hosts enforced the follow on with 2 days to spare. The mission was to save the match. Virender Sehwag, who was stand- in captain for this test ( due to a back injury that MS Dhoni suffered) got out early with India 30/1. One hoped and prayed that the other attractive opener from Delhi would not let the side down. Those prayers were answered, when Gambhir and Dravid put on a healthy 133 for the second wicket. This partnership saw India through day 4, but they had to keep batting the whole of day 5 to ensure that the match ended in a draw.
Gambhir stood his ground and played like he has never done before. Deliberately, patiently, cautiously and with a sense of sticking to his wicket for as long as it takes. There was this other Gambhir ( pun intended) persona that came shining through. With the dawn of the final day he knew that he had to see his team to safety, come what may. His long and arduous vigil came to an end by tea and by which time India seemed safe in the hands of VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh with the score at 356/4! It"s no wonder that after this amazing innings , the stand in captain and his state team mate, Virender Sehwag commented on him being the second wall" of Indian cricket!
Gautam Gambhir may have saved the second test, but he also played his role as a reliable opener in the first test at hamilton. The test and the result may have largely belonged to the efforts of the little master – Tendulkar, but all in all it was the perfect example of an entire team performing when it mattered.
In the third and final test at the Basin Reserve, in Wellington, India knew that they had were 1 up in the series, but this did not mean that they would get complacent. For that"s not how team India plays cricket. They play to win, well, sometimes they don"t! They needed just two more wickets and would have won the series 2-0, but the rain and bad conditions would not allow that. In the second innings, Gambhir once again showed that his batting prowess in the longest format of the game was one to be reckoned with. A hard-fought 167 took him close to what would have been his second double hundred. But that was to elude him.
For the young man who belongs to a part of India that"s known for it"s innate aggression and in-the-face attitude, his outwardly cool demeanour can flatter to deceive. It"s not surprising then, that he has already been reprimanded and has had to sit out for a test, for deliberately elbowing an opponent! Not to be taken lightly this package of dynamite has many pitches to score runs on, not matter what format of the game. He has passed the 25 test match mark and it"s not surprising that the 2,271 runs scored by him in those many tests, is the most by an Indian! There are records to be set and many to be broken. It remains to be seen, as to how many are set by the man most of the cricketing world will have to look at, in a Gambhir( serious) light!