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Is it the end of the road for Gautam Gambhir in Tests?

Indian opener Gautam Gambhir
Gautam Gambhir. (Photo Source: BCCI)

A Test needed saving. The team needed someone to bat out for four hours. Once upon a time the Indian team needed to bat two and a half days. In 2009 at Napier, the Indian team was batting with their back to the wall. What followed was a 436 ball vigil which lasted more than ten hours. That was stonewalling of the highest order and Gambhir had to dig deep for nearly 2 and half days. This time though his team needed him to bat out around 50 overs. This used to be right up Gambhir’s alley. This wasn’t 2009 though. This was 2016. The stance was different. The result was different. Off the sixth ball he faced, Gambhir poked and edged to second slip. It was Déjà vu. We had seen this happen in England in 2011, in Australia in 2011, and as recent as 2014 against this same set of fast bowlers in England.

Gautam Gambhir was drafted back into the Indian team thanks to a combination of injuries to first-team players and his consistent performances in the domestic scene over the last one and half years. While his former Delhi and Indian team-mate Virender Sehwag called it a day last year, Gambhir stuck it out. His performances didn’t quite match the high standards he had initially set but he was resilient as ever. Runs came when it mattered. Grit and determination are two qualities he has in abundance. He was back in the selectors’ radar and it wasn’t much of a surprise to see him replacing Dhawan.

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With pitches expected to turn and given Gambhir’s ability in maneuvering spinners Gautam Gambhir didn’t seem to be a bad choice. His quicksilver footwork makes him one of the better batters in this Indian line-up against spin.

In his first innings back against the Kiwis, he scored a composed 29 but couldn’t capitalize on the start. With the team needing quick runs in the second innings, Gambhir batted selflessly and compiled a quick-fire 50 in 56 balls only to get out to a soft dismissal. If he had scored a century then things may have slightly been different.

Technical prowess against spin won’t count as much as runs though. Increasingly it became apparent that Gambhir had to get a big innings against England to entertain any hopes of continuing to play for India. At Rajkot, he started well. He and Vijay survived till stumps on Day 2. Unfortunately for him, early next day he got into an awkward tangle to a straight Stuart Broad delivery and couldn’t add more than 29.

Meanwhile just before the start of the second test, KL Rahul smashed a century to add to a 76 in his earlier innings in the Ranji Trophy. BCCI proactively brought him into the Test squad for the second test. The moment KL Rahul’s selection was announced, the signs were obivous. Kohli, in the press conference before the match, confirmed that KL Rahul and Vijay are the first-choice openers.

So it was no surprise to see KL Rahul in the playing XI in the second test. What was surprising though was Rahul returned without troubling the scorers poking at a ball outside off stump from Stuart Broad. This poke though may not stop the team management from backing Rahul given his run of scores since his debut. It has become very clear that the selectors are looking at Rahul as the long term option and it is equally clear that he will be given a long rope if he does get into a rut.

Where does this all leave Gauti? Only time will tell but unless something dramatic happens we may have seen the last of Gambhir in Indian colours. But don’t count Gambhir out just yet. It isn’t in his nature to give up. Expect him to go back to the domestic cricket and put on some scores. He is now in a scrap, alright. You can bet your last rupee on him to be always up for a fight. Remember Napier 2009.

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