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Gambhir proves his seniority

His century against Sri Lanka in the 2nd ODI of CB series is a statement of his willingness to shoulder responsibility. A report by Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.

cricket Updated: Feb 06, 2008 01:21 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

His talent was never in doubt, but his ability to rise to the occasion was. It was also to be seen how he coped with the pressure of batting in a side that has suddenly become short on experience. Twenty-six and having been around in international cricket for over four years, Gautam Gambhir wasn’t as junior as some of his teammates and was expected to play the role of a senior batsman in the present set-up.

This century against Sri Lanka was a statement of his willingness to shoulder responsibility and although it’s too early to say that the Delhi batsman has put to rest the apprehensions forever, it was a huge relief for his team and himself. The big ones gone with many overs remaining, the situation was as challenging and Gambhir chose the right time to stand up and be counted.

It was known that he has a wide range of shots on either side of the wicket. There were glimpses of that in the 14 Tests and 38 ODIs he had played before this one. Seen also in those matches was a tendency to play a loose shot early in the innings, like driving without getting behind the line or poking casually outside off. It kept him from becoming a regular in the side.

The strokes he played on Tuesday were brilliant, but the most important feature of his third ODI century was the determination to carry on after getting a start. He had failed to do that despite two reprieves after playing himself in against Australia on Sunday and that had to change for Gambhir to translate his talent into runs. Apart from the satisfaction of pulling the team out of trouble, he might take that as his biggest gain from this match.

“I realise that in this situation batting at No. 3, I’ve to take a lot of responsibility,” he said. “My role has changed because batting in this position means I’ve to be there at least till the 45th over once I get set. It’s more of an anchor’s role than playing shots and this hundred will give the confidence to do better.”

Like on Sunday and a few more occasions in the past, there was an early warning. He hung his bat out casually outside off while on 11 but Kumar Sangakkara failed to latch on to the low chance to his left off Ishara Amerasinghe. The difference on Tuesday was Gambhir was quick to tighten up his game after this. That there were few drives through the covers was an indication of that.

“Before coming to Australia I had heard that the new ball does a bit here, so I worked on playing close to the body and not hanging my bat out. After that edge, I decided against playing towards point and thought that running the ball towards third-man would be a better ploy,” he told HT.

There was no real dearth of shots towards the end of the innings however when his scintillating stroke-making lit up a gloomy day. Driving Muttiah Muralitharan inside out over extra-cover and leaning back next ball to cut him late and fine, Gambhir pulled, slashed over point, improvised and also ran as fast as he could for many singles, twos and threes. It was a superb display of all-round batting in the true sense.

With his principle of batting being based on the intention of dominating the bowlers and the pace he can score at, Gambhir can be an asset to the team.

Obviously people knew this and that’s why he was around for so long without ever being a regular. Maybe this is the knock he needed to convince himself that if he can control his impetuosity, he can score a lot of quality runs.