Focus: Last chance for Gautam Gambhir to resurrect his career

Tags: New Zealand tour of India, 2016, India, New Zealand, Gautam Gambhir

Published on: Sep 29, 2016

Life, they say, is unpredictable. And, indeed it is. Ask Gautam Gambhir. There was a phase between 2008 and 2011

Life, they say, is unpredictable. And, indeed it is. Ask Gautam Gambhir. There was a phase between 2008 and 2011 when he was an indispensable part of the national squad. He and Virender Sehwag, in combination, dominated attacks the world over. Then came the down phase when he struggled, and eventually was dropped from the team by the end of 2012. He was recalled to the Indian team towards the end of 2014, but had a disastrous run, managing only 25 runs across four innings, and was axed again. Now, he returns, possibly for the last time. At 34, he cannot afford to fail.
Gambhir has come back to the Test squad on the basis of some strong domestic efforts that could not be ignored. He was in very good form in the Duleep Trophy, and looked near to his best, although it would be fair to say that he is well past his prime. What must have perhaps disappointed the left-hander was the fact that he fell close to the three-figure mark on more than one occasion. He cannot afford such lapses at the Test level. He can take a cue out of the man he is replacing, Lokesh Rahul. He was also chosen as a back-up when the regular openers were injured. But now, he is a first choice opener in the side when available.
Gambhir should not get overambitious although he will clearly be excited. The fact is that Shikhar Dhawan is already in the side as the third opener. As such, he deserves the first opportunity in the eleven ahead of Gambhir. At the same time, the southpaw should be prepared in case he gets an opportunity. There has been some controversy around his comments on MS Dhoni, which could very well have been avoided. At such a crucial juncture of his career, Gambhir must stay away from such distractions. Although Dhoni is no longer a part of the team, his statements would be at the back of people's minds.
Gambhir should consider himself extremely lucky that he has got a chance to resurrect his career at such a late stage. Even a legend like Virender Sehwag could not get that opportunity. Thus, it is imperative that Gambhir gives it all he has. A fair assessment of his career would lead one to the conclusion that Gambhir has definitely not done justice to his career. His first four years in Test cricket were spent with him trying to find his feet, and his bigger scores only coming against the low-placed side. But, between 2008 and 2011, he was among the best players in the world. At that stage it seemed he was headed for greatness, but his fall was just as swift.
With so much time having flown by, and Gambhir missing a majority of the Tests played over the last four years, it is too late in the day for the left-hander to work his way back towards greatness. But, with some good performances, he can definitely make a mark in what will be the final phase of his chequered career. There are players who have made comebacks in their 30s, and have succeeded. So, what Gambhir is working towards is definitely not the impossible. At the same time, he will have an extremely tough task at hand. During his time away, Murali Vijay and Rahul have made their opening position their own. Gambhir will have to do something spectacular to break in. Does he have enough fight left in the tank?
--By A Cricket Analyst

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