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Gambhir piles up a ton of grit

cricket Updated: Feb 17, 2013 01:46 IST
Sahan Bidappa
Sahan Bidappa
Hindustan Times
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It has been a fight within for Gautam Gambhir. Not the one to take success for granted, he has been insecure, fighting demons that never existed.

Gambhir is unique in many aspects. Despite eight years in international cricket, the left-handed batsman is always out to prove a point - not to the world but to himself. Thus, over a period of time, he became a victim of his own standards.

While he attained success and became a key member of the India side, the urge to do that extra bit meant he was pushing himself too much. It perhaps stems from the fact that he had to bide his time to earn back the India cap, which was bestowed on him in November 2004.

Fighting the odds is nothing new for Gambhir. In 2007, hurt after missing out on the 2007 World Cup, Gambhir went back to the drawing board, scored tons of runs in the domestic arena before making a comeback. He now finds himself in such a situation again.

Playing for India 'A' after being dropped from the senior squad for the first two Tests against Australia, Gambhir made a statement with a century against the visitors.

His gritty 112 (162b, 13x4, 3x6) in the warm-up game at the Guru Nanak College ground, is not the best we have seen from him. But the circumstances under which he scored the runs will please Gambhir, if not entirely.

After a long wait
It was his first first-class century in three years, the last one coming in January 2010 against Bangladesh in Chittagong. In between, he scored four centuries in ODIs, but Gambhir has been a pale of shadow of himself.

His 224-minute stay at the wicket on Saturday stood out for the way he dug in. Aussie pacers Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle gave Gambhir a hard time, giving him little scope to open up. The left-hander was hit on pads constantly while he played and missed, only 12 runs came off the 10 overs in which the fast bowlers operated.

But he frustrated Starc and Siddle by not throwing his wicket away. His propensity to play away from the body has played a huge role in his downfall in recent times and Gambhir seemed aware of that.

It was the introduction of the spinners that gave Gambhir the boost. With the Aussies putting three spinners into play, Gambhir made the most of it. He danced down the pitch to hoick Xavier Doherty in his first over for a four and six, before taking on Nathan Lyon and the rookie Ashton Agar.

Once into the 90s, Gambhir was in a hurry to reach the 100-mark and this time he was not going to miss one. He clipped Siddle to mid-wicket for a boundary before bringing up his much-awaited hundred with a lofted cover drive off Lyon.

He was dismissed after edging a drive off Moises Henriques to be caught by Shane Watson at first slip, but Gambhir had got the monkey off his back, finally.

"Gambhir played solidly. He wanted to spend some time in the middle and played close to the body," said India 'A' coach Lalchand Rajput.

While it might be hasty to declare that Gambhir has turned the corner, the signs are encouraging.