Fiery and unwavering, gritty and resolute, positive and aggressive; Gautam Gambhir is all of these and more. While the Indian batsman may be out of favour with the national selectors at present, he has certainly been one of Indian cricket’s most loyal servants and continues to strive even today to make a triumphant return to the Indian team. The phase from 2008 to 2011 was his best where Gambhir played many an influential knock across formats to help Team India achieve myriad triumphs.
Born on October 14, 1981, in Delhi, the spunky opener celebrates his 36th birthday today. On this special day, let us relive five of Gautam Gambhir’s most unforgettable performances.
206 v Australia at Delhi, 2008 (Test):
In the third Test of the series of Australia’s tour to India in 2008 at Delhi, the home side had opted to bat first. And it was opener Gautam Gambhir who led India’s charge with a brilliant and gritty knock in this crucial match. As the ball came on to the bat beautifully, Gambhir pulled, drove and cut with aplomb on his home turf. With Gambhir plundering the bowlers for runs, the opposition began feeling the heat. Many of the Australians had verbal altercations with Gambhir and tried to get under his skin. But the left-handed opener did not cave in and went on accumulating runs by the plenty. He formed a vital partnership with VV Laxman (200*) and eventually fell for a terrific 206 off 380 balls with 26 fours and a six. Courtesy this effort, India was able to post a mammoth 613-7 (dec.). This is Gambhir’s sole international double ton and to this date remains his highest international score.
167 v New Zealand at Wellington, 2009 (Test):
This one is undeniably Gambhir’s most vital overseas Test knock to date. In the 3rd and final Test of India’s tour to New Zealand at Wellington in 2009, the visitors were looking to retain their 1-0 lead and win the series. After New Zealand had taken an important 55-run lead in the first innings, the onus was on India to put a solid show. Opening the batting, Gambhir batted with resilience and confidence and took on the Kiwi bowlers. Runs flowed from his bat smoothly and Gambhir was truly at his best. Gambhir eventually fell for a scintillating knock of 167 off 257 balls with 16 fours and 2 sixes. The knock helped India amass a 616-run lead. And although the match ended in a draw, Gambhir’s knock was one of its highlights and had ensured that India clinched a memorable Test series win in New Zealand.
97 v Sri Lanka at Mumbai, ICC World Cup 211 Final (ODI):
Perhaps the most significant knock of Gautam Gambhir’s career. The occasion was massive, after all – the ICC World Cup Final against Sri Lanka at Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium. Chasing a target of 275, India had been rocked early in the chase as both the openers Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar had perished early. However, Gautam Gambhir then forged crucial partnerships with Virat Kohli (35) and captain MS Dhoni (91*) to take India to safety. Gambhir soaked in the pressure tremendously well in this high-octane clash and in front of such a raucous crowd. He dealt mostly in singles and twos and just punished the bad balls whenever they came in. It was a very smart knock where he did not allow the Sri Lankan spinners to dictate terms and kept upsetting their rhythms continually. Gambhir was dismissed on a supremely crafted 97 off 122 balls with 9 hits to the fence. But he had done his job and played a knock of paramount importance that paved the way for India to win the World Cup 2011 finals.
75 v Pakistan at Johannesburg, ICC World T20 2007 Final (T20I):
This Gautam Gambhir performance, too, shall always rank among the very best of his career. It was the final of the inaugural ICC World T20 2007 at Johannesburg between arch-rivals India and Pakistan. In this humdinger of a clash, India opted to bat first on a wicket that had spice in it. India lost their first two wickets for just 40 runs and then Yuvraj Singh was struggling to score freely. Gambhir, however, was in his elements and kept the scoring rate up. He was especially severe on the Pakistani spinners and punished them regularly. After Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni departed, Gambhir upped the ante and struck some glorious boundaries and a colossal six before finally holing out for an outstanding 75 off 57 balls with 8 fours and 2 sixes. The effort had come when India was struggling in an all-important final and had helped them score a healthy 157-5 on a difficult track. In a nerve-wracking chase, Pakistan lost by an agonizing 5 runs and India became the first T20 world champs. Gautam Gambhir’s phenomenal knock in that final, though, has now been etched in history forever.
150* v Sri Lanka at Kolkata, 2009 (ODI):
Gambhir has played several match-saving innings in his career, and this was another one that isn’t recalled as often. In the 4th ODI of Sri Lanka’s tour to India in 2009 at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, the home team was chasing a daunting target of 316. India lost openers Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar with just 23 runs on the board. Gambhir then charges to bail India through. The wicket at Eden Gardens was true and allowed Gambhir to play freely. None of the Sri Lankan bowlers troubled him and he briskly moved along, punishing the bowlers whenever the opportunity arrived. Gambhir stitched together a fabulous 223-run partnership with Virat Kohli (107) and remained unbeaten on a majestic 150 off 137 balls with 14 fours to see India home with about two overs to spare.