When the national selectors pick the squad for the Test series against New Zealand, one man should make the discussion a little uncomfortable --- Gautam Gambhir. When he was written off after the England series at home in 2012, Gambhir had scores of 45, 4, 65, 60, 40 and 37 against Alastair Cook’s men.
Next year, Shikhar Dhawan’s scintillating debut century in Mohali made people forget Gambhir. And perhaps just to reinforce the notion that Gambhir had lost his touch, he was recalled against a top opposition on seaming pitches where the rest of the team too collapsed like him.
The irony is that Gambhir’s lasting memories in whites were those four forgettable innings at Old Trafford and The Oval. Once he was run out for three, comfortably forgotten were Gambhir’s centuries that won India Tests, or that marathon 436-ball 137 at Napier that helped salvage a draw.
None of these would have been brought up had Gambhir not kept doing well in the tournaments that matter. He kept scoring at a brisk rate for KKR, and though the Ranji Trophy didn’t go according to expectations, Gambhir still finished the second-highest scorer for Delhi with 488 runs from eight matches. His Duleep Trophy form could also be timely.
India play the next 13 Tests at home and hence Gambhir’s form — 77, 90, 59 and 94 so far for India Blue in the Duleep Trophy — has relevance. Though 34, Gambhir still wants to improve. It’s rare to find a 56-Test veteran willing to change his stance after more than a decade in international cricket.
He had no hesitation taking lessons from Justin Langer or WV Raman, both left-handed openers as well like him. The biggest question will be where to play him. The last thing Virat Kohli needs is another opener in a squad where he is already struggling to accommodate Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul.
But Gambhir also is someone who can grind it out against the new ball or take the attack to the bowlers. That also brings up the equation between Kohli and Gambhir, with their history of public outbursts.
Among the factors that can be held against him will be his age, this being a team for the future, too many openers and younger players like Mayank Agarwal being in the fray. But there’s no denying that at home very few batsmen are more consistent than Gambhir.