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India vs England 2014, 3rd Test at Southampton: Should Gautam Gambhir play ahead of Shikhar Dhawan?

Gautam Gambhir is waiting for his comeback into the Indian team © Getty Images
Gautam Gambhir is waiting for his comeback into the Indian team © Getty Images

With India ready to play England in the third Test at Southampton, the focus has now shifted to the few non-performing members in the tourists’ side. While Murali Vijay has been brilliant, Shikhar Dhawan has struggled for form off late. However, Gautam Gambhir made a few runs in the practice games. Shiamak Unwalla assesses whether Gambhir ought to get a chance ahead of Dhawan in the next match.

Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag formed a prolific opening partnership for India for about three years. However, since the Australia series in 2013, the reins have passed on to Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan. Vijay scored two tons in that series and Dhawan announced himself with a tremendous knock of 187 at Mohali.

Lately though, Dhawan has struggled for form. He was dropped midway through the ICC World T20 2014 in Bangladesh, and had just about middling success with the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014. In the two Tests so far in England, he has registered just 79 runs in four innings. Barring the one unbeaten 60 against Leicestershire, Dhawan has done little of note recently.

Gambhir, on the other hand, was India’s most successful opening batsmen from 2008 to early 2010. With form deserting him, he too found himself in the wilderness along with Sehwag. But then, having been the IPL winning captain twice in three years — and also being consistent in domestic cricket — has helped him find a way back into the national side.

However, the numbers don’t tell the full tale. Gambhir and Dhawan are very different players. They have different characteristics and different traits. Dhawan is a flamboyant batsman who likes to take the bowlers on. He chances his luck, and when it goes his way, he comes off brilliantly. But then, luck can only take you so far.

And then there is Gambhir. The fighter. The scrapper. The man who will hold on dearly to any opportunity that comes his way. Technically, he has his flaws — the poke to third man for a single has brought about his downfall — and he is perhaps not the greatest player of the moving ball. But there are few men with the reserves of patience and concentration that Gambhir possesses in abundance.

MS Dhoni does not like to fiddle around with his combinations very much, especially a winning one. He likes to give the players he backs an extended run — Rohit Sharma being a case in point — and could well retain Dhawan despite his failures. However, if he does decide to go with Gambhir, it could be a new beginning for the man who was hailed by Sehwag as the greatest Indian opener since Sunil Gavaskar.

Complete coverage of India’s tour to England here

(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)

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