In the third ODI against India, England were bowled out for 155. So when the hosts came out to bat, they had all the time in the world – to play themselves in, to spend time in the middle, to treat it like one glorified net session if need be. But more importantly, there was no need to take any risks.
Simply said, for the under pressure Gautam Gambhir – it was perfect chance to find some form. This year hasn’t been kind to the left-hander, in 5 matches he has made 119 runs at 23.80 and it doesn’t help that 52 of those runs came in one innings.
Over the last year, in fact, the Delhi player who was once touted as a future captain, has been anything but special. In 21 matches, he has 804 runs at an average of 38.28. Numbers that would have most batsmen worried but especially so if you are an opener and one of the senior batsmen in the team.
In might even be fair to say that perhaps his troubles in Test cricket have followed him into the ODI arena. In seven matches last year, he made just 346 runs at 31.45. To many, it’s a mystery that he’s survived in the team at all.
And in the third ODI, we saw a glimpse of why Gambhir seems to be suffering. As Dhoni has shown time and again, one-day cricket is not just about hitting the big shots but also about patience. They are also about biding your time but lately it seems like Gamhir has lost that judgement.
India lost Ajinkya Rahane for a duck in the third ODI but thereafter Gambhir and Kohli calmly rebuilt the innings to help India reach 78 for no further loss in 17.2 overs. It was plain to see, the match was won.
But Gambhir wanted to make a point and he chose the wrong moment to do that. The bowler was James Tredwell and the victim was the left-hander himself. He charged out, tried to clear mid-on and failed miserably. Joe Root took a few steps to his left, and safely completed the catch. The opener was walking back after making 33.
His partner, at the other end, Virat Kohli showed him how it’s done. He stayed till the end and finished things off with 77 off 79 balls. By the end of the knock, Kohli looked like he was back to his best and Gambhir must have been ruing another lost opportunity.
The genesis of this slide for Gambhir can probably be traced to his captaincy stint with the Kolkata Knight Riders. They won the title and everyone praised his captaincy. That got him dreaming and distracted.
He sensed a chance, he wanted to be in the hot seat, he wanted to make the changes – he wanted to be in charge. It’s good to want to be captain but Gambhir seemed obsessed.
Dismal tours of England – where Gambhir got injured – and Australia followed. And almost through it all – Gambhir was followed by talks regarding captaincy and clashes with Mahendra Singh Dhoni regarding it. He was then stripped of vice-captaincy, which was handed over to Kohli.
And he’s never quite been the same. The confidence is missing, the technique – he seems to get out in the same way… angled bat and all that jazz – is just not right. And sooner rather than later, India must take a call on him too.
The senior partner Virender Sehwag isn’t quite good enough for ODIs and T20s at the moment. And now Gambhir’s spot must be questioned too – the long rope given to him must be at its end too.
Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Dhoni seem to be in fine form now. Gambhir is not and it’s his turn to swim or sink – the final two ODIs against England might have a huge bearing on his career.