Former India opener Gautam Gambhir feels the negative reactions towards Virat Kohli following India’s 0-3 loss in ODIs and 0-2 defeat in Tests were harsh. What let Gambhir down the most was how everything from Kohli’s captaincy to Ajinkya Rahane’s slow batting was questioned, but mostly felt the team missed having the services of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan at the top.

“I was once again disappointed by the way critics went after Virat Kohli and his men after the 2-0 Test series loss against New Zealand,” Gambhir wrote in his column for Times of India. “Everything was questioned. Selection choices, the atmosphere in the dressing room, Jasprit Bumrah’s sharpness, or the lack of it, and even Virat Kohli’s eyesight. Prithvi Shaw was touring New Zealand in India colours for the first time. Mayank Agarwal is not too old in the piece. In the absence of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, the dependency on Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane was way too much. In the end, the conditions proved way too challenging.”

Gambhir rued the absence of Ishant Sharma from the second Test due to injury and events that led up to it. After picking up a five-wicket-haul in Wellington, Ishant’s ankle injury re-surfaced and he had to miss the second game in Christchurch. Besides, Gambhir felt India could have done with having the in-form KL Rahul in the Test squad.

“Our bowling department was well-served especially with Ishant Sharma returning, though, unfortunately, he ended up getting injured. If anything, I was disappointed to see them playing with four bowlers. As I wrote in the past as well, India should always play with five specialist bowlers. Apart from this, they should have retained KL Rahul in the Test team.” he said.

However, one of the few positives from the tour was Prithvi Shaw, who got starts in ODIs and scored a brisk half-century in the second Test, and Gambhir believes the South Africa ODIs promise to offer Shaw a wonderful platform, aided by the support of a returning Dhawan at the top. Focus will also be on the returning Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are coming back following a lengthy injury lay-off.

“India. With Shikhar returning, there will be confidence in the dressing room. The format and conditions will help Prithvi too. I won’t be surprised if he comes across a different batsman altogether. There is some talk about the Mumbaikar’s problems against short-pitched bowling. I am not sure if this will spill over into white ball cricket. He should be fine,” Gambhir pointed out. “I am particularly keen on watching Hardik Pandya perform. A fast bowling all-rounder is like a gold reserve in any format. If he fires, Kohli will be happy.”

Gambhir congratulates the India women’s team for their superlative show at the Women’s World Cup where they finished finalists. He also praised his former India teammate Wasim Jaffer on a splendid career as the domestic giant called down curtains on a two-decade long career.

“I’d also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Indian women’s team. They had the whole country glued to the TV sets. They may have lost the game but have won the hearts of all most importantly that of marketers and broadcasters. Also, big congratulations to Jaffer. The man was a fabulous ambassador for the game,” Gambhir said.