Comebacks aren’t easy, especially when you enter a dressing room full of players from the next generation. At 34, Gautam Gambhir might not have the easiest time adjusting to a team that is different from the one he spent a major part of his career with.
Include Gambhir and the average age of the squad is still 29. The only player from the present ODI team to have played alongside Gambhir when he scored 97 in the 2011 World Cup final was Virat Kohli. In the last series Gambhir played, against England in 2012, Cheteshwar Pujara was two years into his Test career, Kohli and Ravichandran Ashwin had completed a year and Ravindra Jadeja had made his debut in the last Test in Nagpur.
Kohli is now the captain while Ashwin has cantered to 200 Test wickets in 37 Tests and is fast growing into an all-round asset with Jadeja an able partner. There is no Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan or Harbhajan Singh. Neither is Sachin Tendulkar around as the calming, revered senior. Anil Kumble, the sole link between this era of cricketers and the time Gambhir was a star opener, tried his best to make Gambhir feel a vital part of his plans.
“It’s actually nice to have Gautam back. Unfortunately, Rahul got injured in the last Test match. He was batting brilliantly. But having said that, Gautam has done really well in domestic cricket,” said Kumble on Wednesday.
Gambhir returned to the squad on the basis of a very strong domestic performance, and all seems fair with the team selection policy. But his comeback will be complete if he actually gets a game and also scores above expectations. Here is where Kohli’s opinion on Gambhir matters. So quick and drastic has been his promotion as batsman and a leader that the Delhi boy who made his Test debut as Gambhir’s junior in 2011 seems a different person from the captain who has led India to 12 unbeaten Tests now.
Interestingly, Kohli is also the only India player Gambhir has been involved in a public, ugly spat with in recent times. That incident, caught on TV, happened in Bangalore during the 2013 IPL. Unknown are the words exchanged between them but everyone could see the bad blood brewing between two IPL captains, more significantly a Delhi senior and junior.
Another incident during the 2015 IPL, this time involving other players of KKR and RCB, in Kolkata also happened when they were leading the respective teams.
On both occasions, Gambhir was out of the India team and Kohli was on the rise. That’s in the past. Yet, it isn’t easy to assume everything has been forgotten. Gambhir’s return to the squad as opener despite the presence of Shikhar Dhawan couldn’t have been possible without Kohli’s consent. But for this chance to ultimately translate into game time for Gambhir may require a tete-a-tete between the two Delhi boys.