Rahul Dravid doesn’t really like the nickname ‘The Wall’ but it’s stuck over the years and there’s not much he can do about it. When Gautam Gambhir was christened ‘The Second Wall’ by Virender Sehwag, who cheekily added, ‘this time from North India,’ there would have been no reason to shy from the moniker. Sehwag and Gambhir share a unique relationship within this Indian team, and the chemistry does show on the field as well.
The two come from very different backgrounds, one the quintessential well-off Delhi boy educated in a posh school, the other from a very modest middle-class family and a place called Najafgarh that became internationally famous through his exploits. The two, brought together by cricket, have developed a keen understanding and respect for each other apart from a healthy friendship.
It came as no surprise when Sehwag said “Gambhir saved the Test for us,” even though there were solid contributions from VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. The stand-in skipper had a forgettable match, being dismissed twice through shots he would not like to see replays of. Had India lost the game — and there was a realistic chance of this happening at some point — the questions about Sehwag and the way he plays would have gained currency. In that sense, Gambhir did what people in good partnerships do — lift their game to cover for the failure of a team-mate.
Gambhir’s innings, lasting 642 minutes and 436 deliveries — or 10 hours 42 minutes and 72.4 overs — saved the Test, but it also showed that the pupil was worthy of the mentor. Sehwag is a unique talent and there isn’t another in cricket at the moment who can bat like him, but Gambhir has shown he has it in him to plunder runs. His superb double-hundred at the Ferozeshah Kotla last October was enough proof that Gambhir was much more than just a short-innings player, and it came at a decent clip. The Napier effort showed that Gambhir had more strings in his bow.
Refusing to play at anything outside off stump that could be safely left alone, and defending with purpose over a long period of time, Gambhir did summon images of Dravid at his defiant best. About a year ago last year, Dravid had said that Gambhir’s batting was ‘in an entirely different league,’ referring to the manner in which he gave fast bowlers the charge and put the pressure back on the bowlers.
In Napier, Gambhir showed he could do the textbook as well. “It is never easy to sleep when you have batted the whole day,” Dravid had said, recalling similar efforts of his own. “You are so tired mentally and the adrenaline is so high, but he is a tough little kid. The key for Gautam is to set some more goals, not reflect on his individual score but look at what the team needs from him. That’s what gives you the motivation.” In the end, that was exactly what Gambhir did.