If Gautam Gambhir became a born again cricketer on the 4th day, then on the 5th he came of age many times over. In the space of two days he attained in cricket years, the equivalent of a player with voting rights – for heaven’s sake, after his innings, he can run for elections. And in this Indian team that counts for plenty.
Gambhir is now a test, ODI and T20 staple; regular test and T20 opener, but he still doesn’t open the innings in one-dayers, at least not when SRT decides to play. The day Sachin abdicates the opening slot for Gambhir should not be far. That’s if Sachin calls it right.
In the blink of an eye, Gambhir has scored so many runs, in so many formats, it’s confusing to tell where he got what.
When it started with the IPL hungama, I dismissed the tiny Kotla ground. When the tap ran in ODIs, I wrote them off as white ball freebees. When the run-dam broke in tests, I said sub continent.
By then, even if I doubted Gambhir’s mettle, I had started to enjoy his quirks, like that jaunt down the track. Here was a down the track walker not a wanker. And he walked, and he elbowed, and he gave as he got, and there was joy on top of the order, like there never was –
Or there was in another lifetime, in Sunny’s days with Chauhan. But that was some blurred memory, this was live cricket.
And still, for the life of me, I could not believe, that Indian cricket, in spite of its vision, was myopic when it came to the ODI opening slot.
Frankly, for me nothing, repeat nothing, supersedes the openers. They are where it begins, and quite often can end. They are the reason middle orders make bowlers bleed. So, when India decided to partner Sehwag with Sachin, and not Gambhir, I feared the worst.
After all, wasn’t Gambhir, even in Greg Chappell’s time, labelled as fragile and soft?
Yet when he acquitted himself in an ODI at no. 3, I was pleasantly surprised. But then returned the trickiness outside-off, a random demotion in the batting order and an assortment of cricketing speed-breakers.
It was baffling to see them break the Sehwag-Gambhir love affair – how could they not see what so blatantly obvious. Yet it was equally baffling to see Gambhir battle on, hour after hour after hour in Napier. At some point it, as he smothered another Vettori delivery into the earth, it looked like he’d merge with the pitch, some new installation art.
He was one with the cricket universe of Napier, he was in McLean Park, and McLean Park was in him.
Gautam Gambhir, on 29th & 30th March, made love to the game, and allowed the game to make love to him.
It will in all likelihood be his most unforgettable cricketing romance.