December 05 2018
Gautam Gambhir retired from all forms of cricket without much ado or ceremony. Mirroring his career, he put out a video to break the news, reiterated his patriotism and insisted that if he could, he would do it all over again, albeit with a few more wins for India, a few more centuries and a few five-wicket hauls for himself.
And thus concluded a career of one of the most gloriously underrated players, Indian cricket has ever seen. If you want a perspective of just how important and yet overlooked his presence in the Indian team has been, one only needs to look at the two most important wins for India in recent memory: the 2007 World T20 final and the 2011 ODI World Cup final.
In the former, he scored a brisk 75 to set up a win against Pakistan in the inaugural T20 tournament. It went to the wire with the bowlers securing a last-gasp five run win over the archrivals. Which is why what comes to memory when one recalls the match is not Gambhir’s antics but Sreesanth’s catch of Misbah Ul-Haq to seize the win for India. The win would herald India into a new era of world domination under MS Dhoni but Gambhir’s contributions would be duly forgotten.
Fast forward four years to the Wankhede. The setting was the ODI World Cup final, the trophy that every Indian had dreamt of since Kapil Dev’s team lifted the trophy in 1983. The target set by the Lankans was 275, higher than anything that had been successfully chased in a World Cup final. No home team had won the World Cup before and India too looked like following suit with Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar back in the dugout early thanks to Lasith Malinga. That is when Gambhir took centre stage and scored a crucial 97 to steer India closer to the target. But 3 runs shy of a memorable century, he departed and paved the way for Dhoni to arrive and do his thing and wind up proceedings with a trademark helicopter six to seal the win and the World Cup for India. Amidst all the hoopla over Dhoni’s sixer and Sachin finally getting his hands on the coveted trophy, Gambhir’s heroics were again, sadly, forgotten.
His Test contributions should not be overlooked either. His overall stats might not be all that impressive but for a three year period between 2008 and 2011, he averaged 60.52 and scored 8 centuries in the space of 24 Tests. He scored centuries in 5 consecutive matches, falling just shy of Don Bradman’s record of 6 but he did manage half centuries in 11 straight matches, a record previously matched only by Viv Richards. By the end of that run, India had seized the world number one ranking in Tests.
Gambhir was neither the most consistent cricketer nor the most complete. In fact, he was far from it and there were many flaws in his batting and questions were raised about his attitude as well. But here was a man who always put his country before himself and did everything in his power to help his side win trophies.
He triumphed in his endeavour on many occasions and his most important knocks came at the biggest stage but for all that he has done, his contributions were sadly sidelined and overlooked. As he finally announced his retirement, along with a few more hundreds and victories, he could’ve been forgiven if he had asked for a little more appreciation and acknowledgement from his countrymen.