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Gautam Gambhir brings experience to the Indian side for the tour to England, writes Nishad Pai Vaidya.
Back in December 2013, as India were leaving for the tour to South Africa, skipper MS Dhoni said that Gautam Gambhir remained India’s third opener. Though the Delhi southpaw was axed after the home series against England the previous year, he was very much in Dhoni’s plans. Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan were doing well, but Gambhir had kept himself in the mix by turning up for India A on a few occasions and maintaining consistency in domestic cricket. For the long tour to England, Gambhir gets a lease of life and would hope to make the most of his opportunities.
Gambhir has managed to score runs during the First-Class season. In fact, when he was dropped before the home series against Australia last year, he turned for India A in a tour game and hit a ton. Later that year, he played county cricket with Essex and managed a century in one of those games. Against West Indies A, he scored another ton leading up to the Ranji Trophy, where he amassed 578 runs in seven matches at an average of 48.16. Though he wasn’t among the leading run-scorers in the tournament and other openers such as KL Rahul made more runs, it makes sense to bring Gambhir back.
On a testing tour like England, you need Gambhir’s experience. Apart from skipper MS Dhoni, no other batsman in India’s top seven has played more than 30 Tests. For all of them, it would be their first tour to England and an opportunity to shine. Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara are the most dependable option, but the addition of Gambhir does bring in a lot of value to the side.
That brings us to the question: Whom will Gambhir replace at the top? When you have such a senior player in the side, you normally have to play him. Generally, such players have to be in the main eleven if they are in the squad and not on the bench. Dhawan did well in New Zealand with a ton and a 98. That gave hope that he may perform in overseas conditions. In South Africa, Vijay showed grit and guts against a good bowling attack. He was patient and added sanity to the proceedings. He did struggle a touch in New Zealand.
India may just keep Gambhir on the bench for the first two Tests before taking a call. That may be one option before them instead of axing Vijay first up. However, going by what Australia did during the Ashes 2013, Gambhir could well make it. Darren Lehmann and Michael Clarke summoned the old warrior, Chris Rogers, to open the batting ahead of the younger Ed Cowan and the beleaguered David Warner. The results have been good for them as Rogers went on to settle himself in the side.
Gambhir though, hasn’t played too many Tests in English conditions. His last tour was a struggle in every sense as he hurt his arm at Lord’s and had a terrible concussion at The Oval. Plus, he missed one out of the four Tests. Then he was India’s first choice opener with Virender Sehwag coming in later. How much things have changed since that tour! Gambhir’s fighting spirit and determination may help him with this battle if he gets a chance.
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