County news August 15, 2013

Essex sign Gambhir to aid promotion push

ESPNcricinfo staff

Essex have signed India batsman Gautam Gambhir for the remainder of the season as they look to bring success to a turbulent campaign.

Embarrassed, booed off and publicly criticised by their head coach, Essex are remarkably in a position to make 2013 a year to remember. On Saturday they will take part in Friends Life t20 Finals Day and are handily-placed in both the Yorkshire Bank 40 and County Championship.

Gambhir's wealth of experience will replace the greener Hamish Rutherford, the New Zealand opener, who will be heading home to prepare for New Zealand's domestic and international season. Gambhir is expected to join Essex ahead of their County Championship match against Northamptonshire in Colchester, which begins on August 20.

That fixture is the first of Essex's final six matches. Promotion is firmly in their sights; they currently lie 29 points off second-placed Northamptonshire and have a game in hand on every team in the division. That healthy position is somewhat inconceivable given Essex were bowled out for just 20 against Lancashire earlier in the season.

They were also humbled by Middlesex in the Flt20, bowled out for 74 and booed off by their home fans, yet recovered to qualify for Finals Day with a superb 47-run victory at Nottinghamshire in the quarter-final. Qualification for the semi-finals of the Yorkshire Bank 40 is also a possibility; with two matches to play, Essex sit two points off the top of Group B.

Gambhir's 11,274 first-class runs and 8,815 List A runs could provide consistent performances at the top of the order, an absence of which has hindered Essex thorough the season.

"We are delighted with the signing of Gautam Gambhir," Essex head coach Paul Grayson said. "He is a player with pedigree, which has been showcased on the biggest stages. He will no doubt bring his experience to the squad during an important stage of the season for us."

Gambhir, who had been India's first-choice opener in all forms of cricket over the past few seasons, was dropped from both Test and limited-overs teams earlier this year. He was left out of the squad for the home Tests against Australia and was also not included for the Champions Trophy and the tri-series in the West Indies. He has played 54 Tests and scored 4,021 runs at an average of 44.18.

Gambhir is the first Indian player to sign for a county this season. In 2012, Harbhajan Singh represented Essex for the second half of the season.