From Lala Amarnath to Vijay Manjrekar, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli, India has given such batsmen whose sting has been heard all over the world. Two decades ago, India's middle order was so strong that it had no equal. Rahul Dravid at number 3, Sachin Tendulkar at number 4, Sourav Ganguly at number 5 and VVS Laxman at number 6.
Such a batting order was no less than a pleasant dream. Not only this, the aggressive opening pair of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir used to give a strong start to the innings. There were such batsmen in the team from number one to six, who could easily make a place in any team in the world. Everyone sang and listened to the songs of their great exploits on the cricket pitch. Large books have also been written on these.
But many experts are of the opinion that amidst all this, the player who does not get his due credit is Gautam Gambhir. Be it his key role in the 2011 World Cup win or holding the distinction of being the number 1 batsman in the Test cricket rankings at one point – Gambhir's achievements are often forgotten.
In November 2004, Gambhir showed that he was in for the long haul by playing a brilliant inning of 91 runs against South Africa in his second Test. The very next month, he scored 139 runs in an innings in Bangladesh. This was his first century in Test cricket. After that match, I also got a chance to interview Gambhir. Then I heard from him closely his feelings towards cricket, team and country. Although Gambhir was new to international cricket at that time, he had great confidence. He never wanted to see the team in second place.
In the next series against Pakistan, he scored 3 half-centuries and gave a strong start to the Indian innings. Gambhir started making his mark as a batsman who presented tough challenges in difficult conditions.
By the year 2008, Gambhir's career had gained momentum. In the three-Test series against Sri Lanka, he scored 310 runs at an average of 51. He presented a good example of his consistency. In the subsequent five series, Gambhir's average in Tests was 77, 90, 89, 94 and 69. Then in 12 matches, he scored more than 1750 runs with the help of eight centuries and five half-centuries.
Gambhir came at number-1 in the ICC rankings, leaving behind batsmen like Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Kumar Sangakkara. It would be better to say that he did not arrive but became dominant because during this period he scored centuries in five consecutive matches.
In the Mirpur Test of January 2010, the eyes of the whole world were fixed on Gautam Gambhir, because by scoring one more century, he was going to break the record of almost 75 years old Sir Donald Bradman.
Bradman had the record of 6 consecutive centuries in Tests and Gambhir was just one century away from it. Gambhir made a good start in that match and soon completed his fifty, but on his personal score of 68, he was caught by the keeper on a bouncer from fast bowler Shafiul Islam. In the second innings of the match, India needed only two runs to win, so there was no question of a century here. In this way, Bradman's historical record was saved from being broken.
Gambhir along with Virender Sehwag formed India's number one opening pair in Tests. Both scored 4412 runs in 87 innings at an average of 52.52. During this period, Sehwag-Gambhir pair also played 11 century partnerships and broke Sunil Gavaskar-Chetan Chauhan's record of 10 century partnerships. Both of them also have 25 half-century partnerships in their names, which makes them India's most successful opening pair.
In his Test career, Gambhir scored 4154 runs in 58 matches at an average of 41.95 and scored nine centuries. In 147 ODIs, he scored 5238 runs at an average of 39.68. Gambhir was also a successful player in T20. He scored 6402 runs in 251 T20 matches. He also made Kolkata Knight Riders win the IPL trophy twice. In this way Gambhir proved himself to be a successful player in all three formats of cricket.
Gambhir had helped India win the trophy by scoring 75 runs against Pakistan in the final of the first T20 World Cup in 2007. The highest peak of his career was the 2011 World Cup. If we remember any picture about that World Cup, then Mahendra Singh Dhoni's six to help India win will come first.
That six definitely tells the story of India's charismatic victory, but perhaps Gambhir's innings of 97 runs had a greater contribution than that six. In response to Sri Lanka's 275 runs, the Indian team lost 2 wickets for 31 runs, but Gambhir again made two brilliant partnerships with Kohli and later Dhoni.
Gambhir played a match-winning inning of 97 runs with the help of nine fours in 122 balls and achieved the distinction of being world champion with his team. While praising his strong record, another question is asked whether the militant Gautam Gambhir crosses any limits?
Gambhir said in several interviews that it is wrong to give credit for the victory of T20 in 2007 and ODI World Cup in 2011 to only one player Dhoni because it makes only him a player brand and other players are left behind. He said that the real hero of both the World Cups was Yuvraj Singh who had given excellent all-round performance.
In the subsequent interview, he also reminded the contribution of fast bowler Zaheer Khan and spinner Harbhajan Singh. In fact, Gambhir has been continuously speaking against 'hero worship'. They say that this is not good for Indian cricket.
Recently, Gambhir also got into a fight with Mohammad Kaif during commentary.
Before the announcement of the Indian team for the World Cup, KL Rahul has not been included in the Asia Cup team. On this, Kaif was saying that Rahul was out of the team due to injury and not due to form, hence when he is fit, he will be the number one keeper-batsman.
On this, Gambhir said that Ishan Kishan is in form at the moment and he should be selected and not any big name. Although Gambhir's argument had merit, his harsh style of speaking sometimes irritates people.
Apart from commentary, he has also been seen getting embroiled in serious controversies on the field. The most talked about controversy was seen in the last IPL with Virat Kohli.
In the match between Lucknow and Bangalore, when Kohli came to say something to the Lucknow players after the match, Gambhir moved towards him and said, 'Tell me what is the matter?'
When Kohli said, 'I am not telling you anything', Gambhir said that telling his team is like telling him because the team is his family. On TV, crores of people saw two great players of India arguing like children, which was definitely not an act equal to the stature of both of them.
Also Read: India vs Pakistan Rivalry in Asia Cup