India v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup, Mirpur

Roles reversed but partnership flourishes

Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli have had significantly different, if not contrasting, fortunes coming into the Asia Cup. But their partnership has remained solid as ever

Siddarth Ravindran at the Shere Bangla National Stadium

March 13, 2012

Comments: 127 | Text size: A | A

The previous time Gautam Gambhir scored an international century, he was leading India in the absence of the regular captain MS Dhoni and the usual stand-in Virender Sehwag. It was his first assignment as India captain and everything went right for Gambhir - New Zealand were blanked 5-0, and Gambhir was named Man of the Series for his runs and leadership.

At that time, Virat Kohli was just one of the many young contenders for a place in the one-day middle order. A century against Australia in Visakhapatnam had given him a foothold, but it was the three substantial scores to begin the New Zealand series that firmly established him in the team.

In the 15 months since, Kohli hasn't missed a single ODI, became the leading run-getter of the format in 2011, and also took over the long-contested spot vacated by Sourav Ganguly in the Test middle order. Gambhir hasn't had as stellar a time. While his one-day record remains solid, the bruising Test tours of England and Australia have dealt his standing a bit of a hit.

That was firmly confirmed when, days after a magical century in Hobart, the 23-year-old Kohli was named vice-captain for the Asia Cup ahead of Gambhir. The reversal of roles was highlighted by the manner of their celebrations on reaching their hundreds against Sri Lanka in Mirpur.

Kohli got to a century first, pushing the ball towards long-off and raising his hand to signal the milestone as he ambled a single. That was followed by an almost half-hearted leap and a wave of the bat. No screamed obscenities, no over-the-top antics which are usually associated with a Kohli hundred. It was more the celebration of a man who routinely made centuries - eight in one-dayers over the past year and a half.


Gautam Gambhir set India up with 100 off 118, India v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup, Mirpur, March 13, 2012
There was much relief for Gautam Gambhir, who ended a long wait for an international century © Associated Press
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Gambhir got to his century two deliveries later, with a pull to square leg. The reaction from Gambhir was unexpectedly strong. An impassioned punch of the air, followed by some shouted abuse, and then pointedly gesticulating towards the dressing room. It was a reasonably good impression of the typical Kohli reaction.

It might just have been relief at finally completing a hundred, after several near misses. A historic century at the World Cup final was his for the taking but he fell short, and there were a couple of nineties in the CB series as well. There was also a jittery moment today, when on 94, he set off for an ill-judged single and was nearly run out.

Add to that the frustrations of a tough and long recent tour of Australia, with the pasting in the Tests and the controversial rotation policy of the three senior openers due to which he was sidelined for several matches. Then there was the loss of the vice-captaincy. Still only 30, he went from being a likely candidate for the top job in the future to being demoted below a much younger and inexperienced player.

The innings itself was typical Gambhir. There were plenty of drop-and-run singles, he advanced down the track to both spinners and quicks, and though the number of boundaries was low, the strike-rate didn't flag. With the bowlers not providing much width for the batsmen, and generally maintaining tidy lines in the middle of the innings, both Kohli and Gambhir dealt largely in singles - collecting 117 ones between them.

It was their third double-century stand in one-dayers, to go with their most important one so far, the 83-run partnership that stabilised India in the World Cup final after the loss of Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar early. "It's always special batting with him," Kohli said. "We understand each others' games well, we run well between the wickets when together, we know when to step it up and I knew that we could put together another big partnership for India."

The current vice-captain doesn't think his elevation to the post changes much. "It's an honour, but I have not thought that my position in the team has changed. I haven't seen myself any differently after the announcement. I'm not thinking too much about it." Whether Gambhir's celebration means he sees it differently remains open for debate.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by csowmi7 on (March 15, 2012, 14:46 GMT)

@maddy20. I agree with you 100%. Why should India prepare bouncy pitches when sides tour India. It is nullifying our advantage of playing at home. And over the years we have used that advantage to great effect. If we start producing pitches like that we will be like Sri Lanka. Losing abroad and at home. But at the domestic level like the Ranji Trophy we should prepare pitches conducive to fast bowling so that our batsman have experience when we tour.

Posted by maddy20 on (March 15, 2012, 13:04 GMT)

@Smithie It seems you want Fast bouncy pitches in India as well. Now we don't beg for turning tracks in Aus and Eng do we? My dear friend last time I checked Asia is not a part of Australia or England so the curators here are entitled to make pitches that suit their home team don't they.

Posted by csowmi7 on (March 15, 2012, 10:55 GMT)

@mahanama If you want to talk about Sri Lanka's achievements of drawing a couple rain affected tests and a few meaningless ODIs where SA played without Steyn Kallis and Amla I'll tell you about India's achievements. We won the 1983 WC in England. We won the 2007 t20 WC in SA. We won the Benson and Hedges tournament in Aus. We drew against Aus 1-1 in 2003 and we lost a hard fought series where we broke the Aussie record of 16-0 wins at home in 2007 2-1. We won the CB series in 2007. We drew in SA 1-1(2010) . We won in Eng 1-0(2007). We won in WI(2011) 1-0 and in (2006) 1-0. We won in NZ(2009) 1-0. Unlike Sri Lanka who did nothing outside home our number one ranking was a culmination of excellent cricket touring.

Posted by csowmi7 on (March 15, 2012, 10:43 GMT)

@Mahanama There is no use in blaming rain or giving excuses. In fact all of India's ODI matches versus England were rain affected and we suffered injuries in the tests. We lost 7/8 tosses in Aus. Answer one question. When have Sri Lanka won a test series in NZ and WI and won tests in Eng SA and Aus. They have been whitewashed every time they enter Aus. The only place where you win test series is home. Then how are you not flat track bullies. Your record in SA is 1-8 in Aus 0-6. At least India at their peak played well in SA, in Eng and Aus. And by the way Pak have been whitewashed 3-0 the last 4 times they played Australia. Compared to that I suppose two bad series is far better. 0-8>>0-12

Posted by grown_men_hitting_little_red_balls on (March 15, 2012, 10:17 GMT)

For crying out aloud people, a flat track bully is not some one who does well on flat tracks... It is someone who dominates weaker opponents - in any sport. Neither India nor Sri Lanka are flat track bullies. The thudding sound you hear, is my head banging on the monitor.

Posted by Fast_Track_Bully on (March 15, 2012, 10:12 GMT)

@Mahaanama. Ok. Agreed. But you cannot deny that your SL team is useless in front of these 'Flat Track Bullies'. It may be Flat or Abroad. Is n't it? Funny to see that WC final still haunting Lankan fans...lol

Posted by mathewjohn2176 on (March 15, 2012, 9:42 GMT)

@mahaanama, just by losing last two series you can't call any team flat track bullies.Same dravid,tendulkar,laxman played excellent cricket outside subcontinent except the last two series,and it's a joke just by winning 4-3 against Australia eventhough losing the CB finals makes SL fans call these players flat track bullies. same team won many matches outside subcontinent before last two series.Infact srilanka never won any series barring some few ODI's win ,that too in dead rubber matches.Losing to Australia both test and ODI matches in home conditions and losing all the series in both ODI's and test matches away from home.decide yourself who are flat track bullies now.cricinfo please publish this.

Posted by cool2cool on (March 15, 2012, 8:20 GMT)

@Mahaanama: Why are you considering only recent performances? and why are you mixing test/odi/t20 results? Just few questions, when was the last time SL won a single test match in India against India? When was the last time SL won an bilateral ODI series in India against India? When was the last time SL won a test series against Aus, SA, PAK, NZ or even WI at their home?

Posted by Mahaanama on (March 15, 2012, 7:50 GMT)

India's recent performances outside subcontinents ( with homes teams) -->> In England ( lost 4 tests , lost 3 ODIs & one ODI was tied, lost 2 T20s) -- In Australia (lost 4 tests , lost 3 out of 4 ODIs, lost 1 out of 2 T20s) ---

Total number of matches India have played with home teams at their home =20 -- Number of won matches = 2 -- Number of lost matches =17 -- Number of tied matches = 1 -- Number of draw matches =0

-----///////-------

Sri Lanka's recent performances outside subcontinents ( with homes teams)-->>In England ( lost 1 test & draw 2 tests , lost 3 ODIs & won 2 ODIs, won 1 T20) -- In South Africa(lost 2 tests & won 1 test, lost 3 ODIs & won 2 ODI ) -- In Australia (Lost 3 ODIs & won 4 ODIs) ---

Total number of matches Sri Lanka have played with home teams at their home =24 -- Number of won matches = 10 -- Number of lost matches =12 -- Number of tied matches = 0 -- Number of draw matches =2 ----->>>>

Now decide yourself who are real FLAT TRACK BULLIES !

Posted by Mahaanama on (March 15, 2012, 7:38 GMT)

India's recent performances outside subcontinents ( with homes teams) In England ( lost 4 tests , lost 3 ODIs & one ODI was tied, lost 2 T20s) In Australia (lost 4 tests , lost 3 out of 4 ODIs, lost 1 out of 2 T20s)---

Total number of matches India have played with home teams at their home =20 Number of won matches = 2 Number of tied matches = 1 Number of draw matches =0 Number of lost matches =17

---------------------------------------

Sri Lanka's recent performances outside subcontinents ( with homes teams) In England ( lost 1 test & draw 2 tests , lost 3 ODIs & won 2 ODIs, won 1 T20) In South Africa(lost 2 tests & won 1 test, lost 3 ODIs & won 2 ODI ) In Australia (Lost 3 ODIs & won 4 ODIs) ---

Total number of matches Sri Lanka have played with home teams at their home =24 Number of won matches = 10 Number of tied matches = 0 Number of draw matches =2 Number of lost matches =12

--------------------------------------- Decide yourself who are flat track bullies

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