Gautam Gambhir reacts after scoring a century during the one day international Asia Cup cricket match against Sri Lanka at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka. AFP/Munir uz Zaman
A stifled jump and just about a punch in the air following a single to mid-off to bring up his 10th ODI hundred was in sync with the quiet accumulator’s role India’s new vice-captain Virat Kohli played on Tuesday. Kohli had hit just six boundaries in the 115 balls he took to get to the three-figure mark.
One ball later, Gautam Gambhir brought up his 10th ODI hundred and the release of pressure was evident as he let out a few expletives and then turned to point his bat at the dressing room in acknowledgement.
His teammates had barely taken their seats after standing up to congratulate Kohli. Gambhir had taken 116 balls and hit one boundary more than Kohli. Incidentally, both were dismissed caught in the deep in the same over, in the space of two balls.
Kohli had broken into a slightly more aggressive post-century celebration in Adelaide during the Test series in Australia and the release of frustration after a series of failures by the India batsmen Down Under was a plausible explanation. The reason for Gambhir's frustration though looked unclear.
Former Pakistan coach Waqar Younis, analysing the game in the studio for the broadcasters, said: “I think there’s something wrong. This just can’t be frustration of a batsman who hasn’t scored a hundred for a while. I haven’t seen someone celebrate like that. Anyone in the BCCI watching this should sit him down and find out what’s the problem. These things can break teams. We had similar problems in the 1990s.”
Soon after the Asia Cup squad was announced with Kohli named as skipper MS Dhoni's deputy, there was talk that Gambhir had been given a raw deal for contradicting the captain’s views in the media during the Australia tour.
And, there were doubts whether the 23-year-old Kohli would be able to handle the extra responsibility. Both made their point.
Not the first time
This is not the first time the pair has helped India recover from an early setback, or against Sri Lanka. Gambhir and Kohli were the heroes in Hobart were India chased down 321 in unthinkable fashion, in the 37th over. The senior partner had missed out on a big one there.
Even three years back at the Eden Gardens, chasing 315 against the same opponents, centuries by this pair gave India a 3-1 lead in the five-match series. Gambhir had remained unbeaten on 150 on that occasion.