India vs Australia 2013: Confidence-boosting performances by Gambhir, Tiwary and Rohit

Gautam Gambhir’s innings of 112 is his first hundred in First-Class cricket since January 2010 © IANS

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

Eying redemption after the axe, Gautam Gambhir smashed a hundred for India A against Australia in a tour game at Chennai. Dropped from the Test team after a protracted dry spell, Gambhir’s hundred comes at time when he needed it the most. It is a knock that would give him tremendous confidence and the hope of making a swift comeback. Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary — who have been on the fringes of the Test side for some time — also cashed in on the opportunity to come up with good knocks. It was thus fruitful day for the hopefuls.

This isn’t the first time Gambhir would be plotting a comeback. Early in his career, he had a tough time establishing himself in the Indian team and was in and out of the side. However, he fought hard at the domestic level and blossomed into a better player. His second coming was largely successful as his phenomenal run helped India to the summit of the Test rankings and also won him the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Test Player of the Year in 2009. However, it all went downhill since January 2010 as there was an alarming drop in consistency.

Consider this: Gambhir’s innings of 112 is his first hundred in First-Class cricket since January 2010. His last ton came in a Test match against Bangladesh at Chittagong. For an opener of his calibre, these are shocking stats and puts into perspective why the selectors dropped him. While his returns in one-day cricket have been good, he struggled in Test cricket. The occasional fifty was often a face-saving knock and one that would come after a battle for survival. The dominance and panache was certainly missing.

It wasn’t Gambhir alone who was under pressure with the axe lurking; his flamboyant and fearless partner, Virender Sehwag, also faced the heat. Sehwag managed to survive and will play a part in the first two Tests against Australia with a new opening partner. Interestingly, there isn’t much to choose between Sehwag and Gambhir’s returns from the series against England. Sehwag scored 253 runs at an average of 36.14 with one century, whereas Gambhir managed 251 at an average of 41.83 with two fifties.

Coming against an international attack, the hundred will help Gambhir rework his rhythm. If Sehwag, Murali Vijay or Shikhar Dhawan fail to perform in the first two Tests, Gambhir might get back into the side.

Rohit Sharma deserves a Test cap

Rohit’s case is one that truly baffles the Indian fan. The rare talent is yet to live up to its potential at the highest level and build on those sparks of brilliance. As CricketCountry‘s Karthik Parimal pointed out in his article in early January, Rohit deserves a place in the Test side with his fantastic First-Class record to back. The problem perhaps lies in the fact that he is judged by his failures in limited-overs cricket – which is a different ball game all together.

Recently, Rohit made an impression as an opener in a One-Day International (ODI) against England. But, Test cricket awaits his arrival. The Mumbai batsman has to capitalise on his opportunities and get back into the thick of things. His innings of 77 against Australia at Chennai will help in that regard.

At the time of writing, Tiwary is unbeaten on 77 — looking for a big score. Time and again, Tiwary has showcased his talent and ability. Yet, the Indian team management has been unfair on him. Opportunities in the India colours have been few and far in between despite encouraging outings. A hundred at Chennai will be yet another statement. One hopes that it doesn’t fall on deaf ears like his previous performances.

On the domestic front, there isn’t any First-Class cricket left as the teams would play the limited-overs competitions. Thus, this encounter against Australia is crucial for the contenders to push their cases for Test berths should the selectors want options. In the next two days, we might see more players making their contributions count and throwing their hats in the ring.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)