Indore: It was with a purpose that Gautam Gambhir walked to the nets on Thursday. Even as his teammates strolled in after the warm-up session, Gambhir was the first to pad up.
It was clear from the body language that the Delhi batsman was fired up. He has reason to be. The 34-year-old is set to make a comeback to the India side for the third and final Test, from October 8 at the Holkar stadium, after a two-year gap.
Brought in as a replacement to the injured KL Rahul, Gambhir sat out in the second Test in Kolkata as Shikhar Dhawan was given another chance to prove his worth. Dhawan suffered a thumb injury during the match, paving the way for his Delhi-mate.
With over 2000 fans watching and cheering the players, the pressure was intense and Gambhir seemed to feel it.
As he took guard, he looked jittery as the India pacers fired in a few darters. Soon, even a nets bowler squared him up. A change in nets saw the left-handed batsman settle down. He found the middle of the bat, and had the longest stint among teammates.
While India have already sealed the series and reclaimed the No 1 position in ICC Test rankings, the third game is more about confidence building.
IN GOOD FORM
With Dhawan out, India’s top order is missing a left-handed batsman. Gambhir fits the bill with his proven record as an opener and the comfort against spin. The four 50-plus knocks in three games in Duleep Trophy was evidence of his current form.
“Gautam Gambhir is a quality player. What he has done well in the time he was out of the team was that he kept on performing for his (IPL) franchise and state side. When he got his opportunity in Duleep Trophy, he was among the top run-scorers and that too against the pink ball which certain batsmen found difficult to pick. He has ticked all the boxes,” India batting coach Sanjay Bangar said on Thursday.
“The untimely injury to Rahul and Shikhar makes it sure there is a place for him. He has a proven record against spin bowling. The number of Test matches we are going to play in India, he becomes a very important player at the top of the order,” he added.
Age however, is not on Gambhir’s side. Till his recent dip in form, Dhawan had formed a solid partnership with Murali Vijay at the top of the order. It was only with the emergence of Rahul that a change was brought about. The inclusion of the promising Karun Nair has further intensified competition for the opening slots.
Once Rahul returns, Gambhir might have to make way again. However, this is a chance to impress and reclaim what was lost. The competitor in Gambhir knows this.