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The best of Gautam Gambhir


Gautam_Gambhir_Cricket_IndiaGautam Gambhir was passion personified, taking on stern challenges in the toughest conditions with ease. Indian Cricket’s silent hero racked up 4,154 Test runs at an average of 41.95 and scored 5,238 runs in ODIs at an average of 39.68. With 20 international hundreds, the Delhi southpaw gave it his all every time he stepped out to bat for the national side.

His time at the peak (from 2007 to 2011) coincided with India’s glory days as well, which shows how crucial the left-hander was for MS Dhoni. Over the course of his career, Gambhir played some magnificent knocks. The ones that we popularly remember are: the innings from the 2007 World T20 finals against Pakistan; his match-winning effort in the ODI World Cup four years later; and the resilient 137 at Napier in which he batted for over 11 hours and saved India blushes after they were made to follow-on.

Here we list the innings that have not grabbed the desired eyeballs, but which were equally important as part of Gambhir’s legacy.

206 against Australia at Delhi, 2008 (Test)

Gambhir’s career would have remained unfulfilled had he not pitched in with a remarkable innings at his home ground. In the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2008, India had won the second game and were eager to carry on their dominant showing in the third match at Feroz Shah Kotla as well. After winning the toss and batting first, India got off to a poor start as they lost Rahul Dravid and Sehwag early on in the innings.

It was here that Gambhir brought the innings back on track, outplaying the Aussie bowlers as he raced away to his maiden Test double century. He combined with Sachin first and then with VVS Laxman en route his career-best knock of 206. His innings helped India reach 613/7d. Even though the Delhiite was suspended from the final match - for elbowing Shane Watson - he finished as the highest run-scorer in the series. The match at Delhi ended in a draw.

150 against Sri Lanka at Cololmbo, 2009 (ODI)

India had already won the 5-match ODI series in Sri Lanka before the fourth game took place. However, the Indian side continued to dominate, with Gambhir leading the way. After the early dismissal of Sehwag, Gambhir held one end up and played some brilliant shots all over the ground. He was ably assisted by Dhoni, with whom he piled on 188 runs for the second wicket.

His knock of 150 helped the side breach the 300-run mark. The Men in Blue ended at 332 for 5, which proved a tough challenge for the home side. Gambhir was awarded the Man of the Match.

167 against New Zealand at Wellington, 2009 (Test)

After the marathon innings at Napier, Gambhir was at it again in the third game against New Zealand. After being sent in to bat, India managed 379 runs courtesy fighting knocks from Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh and Dhoni. The visitors had a great reply, as they dismissed New Zealand for just 197 runs, with Zaheer Khan leading the charge, taking 5 wickets.

With a handy lead already in their pockets, the onus was on the Dhoni-led side to bat the Kiwis out of the game. After Sehwag got out early, Gambhir combined with Dravid to add 170 runs for the second wicket and take the target close to 500. The Delhi player ended with 167 runs from 257 deliveries, notching up his second Test hundred on the tour. Though the game ended in a draw, India managed to win the series and Gambhir played a huge part in the triumph, ending the series as the leading run-scorer. His efforts in the tricky conditions helped him win the ICC Test Player of the Year Award later that year.

114 against Sri Lanka at Ahmedabad, 2009 (Test)

In the first Test of Sri Lanka’s tour to India in 2009, India were tottering at 32 for 4 in the first innings after skipper Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat first. The openers, Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, had been sent back to the hut early, and it was up to Rahul Dravid and Dhoni to rescue India. Thanks to their knocks of 177 and 100, respectively, and Yuvraj Singh’s 68, India managed 426 in the first innings.

Sri Lanka batted with an emphatic reply, declaring after making a massive 760 runs in the first innings, which put the pressure back on the home team. It was then that Gambhir took up the responsibility of seeing his team through. He combined first with Sehwag and then with Dravid to help India to a score of 190 for 2 on the fourth day. He held up his end on the last day to score a hundred and though he was dismissed soon after reaching the triple-figure mark, Gambhir had done enough to ensure that India drew the game.

150 against Sri Lanka at Kolkata, 2009 (ODI)

With India leading the 5-match series 2-1, the series was evenly poised before the clash at Eden Gardens, the venue for the fourth game. After the visiting team won the toss, Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara got together, scoring 118 and 60, respectively. The innings, along with Thisara Perera’s cameo, pushed the target to 315, which seemed a tough ask back in the day.

In reply, India lost the wickets of Sachin and Sehwag within the first four overs, and it was imperative that Gambhir combined with youngster Kohli to help India over the line. They did just that, batting steadily and cautiously, taking calculated risks. Gambhir was in roaring form, smashing the bowlers all over the park. The duo notched up 224 runs for the third wicket, with Gambhir scoring 150 and Kohli managing 107 - his first international ton. The Indian team comfortably won the match. The stalwart, senior batsman further impressed the crowd by passing on his Man of the Match Award to Kohli, who had played maturely throughout his knock.

138 against New Zealand at Jaipur, 2010 (ODI)

Captaining India for the first time in the five-match ODI series against the Black Caps, Gambhir left an instant mark with both bat and his leadership skills. After winning the first game of the ODIs convincingly, the juggernaut stopped at Jaipur, where India decided to field first after winning the toss.

Fighting fifties from Scott Styris and Martin Guptill pushed the New Zealand score to 258 for 8. After Murali Vijay was dismissed in the run-chase after piling on 87 for the first wicket with Gambhir, the skipper combined with Kohli to take the match away from the opponents. While the younger player was the anchor, Gambhir was the aggressor, stroking the balls with sublime footwork and timing. He got his 100 off just 89 balls and continued his run even after Kohli was dismissed. He ended up scoring 138 off just 116 deliveries, winning the Man of the Match Award for his efforts.

92 against Australia at Adelaide, 2012 (ODI)

The CB series in Australia in 2012 is best remembered for Virat Kohli’s heroics against the Lankans when he smashed Lasith Malinga all over the park. Not many will remember Gambhir’s match-winning efforts at Adelaide, which helped India seal their first ever ODI win at the ground.

After losing the opening game in the series, the pressure was on India as they faced off against the mighty Australian side for their third encounter (they had won the second game against Sri Lanka). Chasing a tricky 270 for a win, India lost Sehwag early - sent back by Clint McKay for 20. However, Gambhir batted on, displaying calculated aggression and never let the run-rate climb out of reach. He raced his way to a well-made 92. India won the game and Gambhir was once again declared the Man of the Match.

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