Gambhir needs to rediscover his old touch

Southpaws form big concern for India

Gambhir needs to rediscover his old touch

There was a time when Gautam Gambhir was India’s most bankable batsman in a line-up consisting Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman.

Once Gambhir batted 643 minutes to save India from an embarrassing defeat against New Zealand after following on at Napier, and then came that brilliant 93 against Sri Lanka in the World Cup final in 2011.

Those were the best days of Gambhir. But that confident Gambhir has been faded into a different time zone. Now, all we can see is a batsman struggling to make an impact at the pole position, edginess has replaced solidity of the old.

Let’s go through two features of his batting. Earlier in his career, it was a common sight to see him edging to the slip cordon, but the left-hander cleverly turned that weakness into one of his run-making shots – dab to third man. Gambhir has also been one of India’s most assured batsmen against spin, and he made that chip shot over covers or mid-wicket into a fine art – at once frustrating spinners and giving him some quick runs.

But that dab now has turned into an enemy, and these days he gets out often snicking to wicketkeeper or slip fielders. In the recent Test series against England, the Delhiite had been beaten on countless occasions by James Anderson and Steven Finn outside the off-stump, edging behind a couple of times.

The next scenario will explain his struggles against spin. There was simply no will to take risk and dominate Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann in the Test series. The English tweakers exploited that unsure footwork to optimum – often trapping him leg-before or eliciting an edge for close-in fielders.

The T20s were expected to liberate Gambhir. But he struggled even more in the three T20s against England and Pakistan. In Mumbai, he wasted 27 balls for 17 before finally getting out in the 11th over. By any stretch of imagination, James Tredwell doesn’t fall into the class of Swann and Panesar, but Gambhir never wanted to use the feet and unsettle a bowler who was making his debut.

Trepid footwork

He made a 43 against Pakistan at Bangalore a couple of days back, but Saeed Ajmal, Umar Gul and debutant Mohammad Irfan had him in all sorts of troubles. Gambhir’s trepid footwork was on view on many occasions in that innings, and most noticeably when the seven-foot pacer Irfan’s bouncer caught him in no-man’s land. It was only his late reflex saved him from getting pinged on the head.

It was a painful sight. Not because of a batsman getting troubled by short-pitched delivery, but more because of the thought that Gambhir of a different time would have pulled that with confidence. It has been more than two years since Gambhir scored an international hundred, and the lack of other openers has worked in favour of him.

India have tried M Vijay and Abhinav Mukund but with inconsistent results, and there are not many who have been setting the domestic circuit ablaze with sterling performances. So, at this point of time India have not much option than continuing with Gambhir.

In normal circumstances, Gambhir would also have been considered for leading India in one format, in his case Tests. By the way he captained Kolkata Knight Riders it can be safely said that Gambhir has the characteristics to become a good captain. He’s expressive and has the ability to push his team-mates to punch above their weight against stronger opponents. Unlike Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Gambhir is emotive too on the field, giving onlookers the impression of being a hands-on captain.

But the wretched form has ensured that even a junior like Virat Kohli has been spoken about for the top job. More alarmingly, Gambhir is seemed to be slipping into a comfort zone, often hiding behind excuses for his lack of runs.

It’s time then for Gambhir to admit his flaws in batting, that’s what he did in 2007.

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