Gautam Gambhir last represented India in 2014  .CricketCountry Staff
Gautam Gambhir last represented India in 2014. CricketCountry Staff

April 11,2003. A young 21-year-old boy from Delhi opens the batting alongside Virender Sehwag for India against Bangladesh. His first opportunity to represent his nation on international stage did not exactly go as planned. Eleven runs from 22 balls was not the start he needed. Four more games later, he had only scored 102 runs. A total of 113 runs in five games saw people question whether he is capable. But little did they know that the same boy will play a key role in the final of India’s 2007 T20 World Cup and 2011 ICC World Cup wins. Yes, the young boy mentioned above is none other than Gautam Gambhir. Recently, India announced their ODI and T20 squad for tour to Zimbabwe, and despite a brilliant showing in IPL 2016, Gambhir had no room in the squad. This scenario left many wondering: are all his hopes of comeback over now? ALSO READ: India announce squad for Zimbabwe tour

To start of with, Gambhir is not exactly a likeable guy. Fiery, aggressive, and vocal, these three words sump up what he is like. Not one of those players to stand down to a fight, Gambhir has always been considered as ‘hothead’. He has a knack of picking up fights and arguments, most noticeably against Shahid Afridi and Virat Kohli.

But do not for a moment think his performance was not at similar level to his personality. One of the very few players who could attack and defend with same ease, Gambhir has been a class player. While it is true to accept his footwork or technique was not the best at times, it was his hard work which made him one of the most promising batsman of his time. And despite staying under the shadows of Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, he succeeded in making a name for himself, without getting much credit for it.

‘Gauti’, as he is known by, had a tough start to his career. From 2003-06, Gambhir barely represented India in both ODI and Test format. A total of 13 Tests and 16 ODIs is all he could manage during that time. This coupled by a solitary century in Tests, a solitary century in ODIs and not getting selected for 2007 ICC World Cup almost made him ‘quit the game’. Anyone after looking his record now could not have imagined him going through such a horrible phase.

The year 2007 was the year India again became a dominant force in world cricket. And it was this year that Gambhir fought back like a warrior and became a key part in Indian team’s success. The historic T20 World Cup 2007 win was credited to skipper MS Dhoni. But silently, it was Gambhir who played a critical hand, which went unnoticed. From scoring 227 runs in the tournament to scoring a match-winning 75 in the final against Pakistan, his importance went unnoticed.

Despite never getting the attention he deserved, Gambhir kept on playing with his heart for India. The year 2008 to 2010 saw him realising his true potential. During these 3 years, Gambhir became the leading run-scorer and leading centurion in ODI for India in 2008. Over that, he also was the ICC Test player of the year in 2009 for scoring an aggregate of 100 runs in every Test he played that year. It was also during this time he twice scored his career best 150, as well as skippering India to a 5-0 rout over New Zealand at home, during which he scored back to back unbeaten centuries.

Come 2011 and the big tournament arrived. India were hosting the ICC World Cup 2011. Tendulkar was playing his final World Cup and all the attention was towards him. The events that took place thereafter are well known. India won the World Cup, Tendulkar’s dream was fulfilled and Dhoni was again praised for his leadership. But just like in 2007, Gambhir’s 393 runs in the tournament and a match-winning 97 in the final was overshadowed.

Since the final, he has only represented India 33 times in ODI’s, scoring 1,165 runs at an average of 35.30. While his record is not the best, it definitely is not awful. Still, he has been frozen out of the ODI squad since early 2013. His IPL form also has been decent in the past 4 years, having scored 1,541 runs. Especially in IPL 2016, he has been in terrific form, which was seen as his best bet to have a chance for a return to national side.

Yet, when the Indian selectors announced the squad for tours to Zimbabwe and West Indies on Monday, there was no sign of Gambhir in it. His exclusion can have no justification. While there can be ‘n’ number of reasons of why he is excluded, one need not go there. The bottom line it seems is, Gambhir will end up with stats of 5,238 runs at an average 39.68 from 147 ODIs and 932 runs in at 27.41 in 37 T20Is. And until or unless a miracle happens, it feels like the T20 World Cup 2007 and ICC World Cup 2011 hero’s hopes of representing India are over.

(R Narayan is a reporter with CricketCountry, and is an ardent cricket and football enthusiast (big Manchester United fan). Having followed cricket since 2003, he likes high scoring matches as well as good fast bowling. His Twitter handle is @RNarayan24nov)