Aakash Chopra
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Aakash Chopra looks at various aspects of cricket from a player's perspective

Gambhir's problem is mindset, not technique

In Test cricket he needs to find a way of controlling instincts that have been successful for him in the limited-overs game

Aakash Chopra

November 14, 2012

Comments: 32 | Text size: A | A

Gautam Gambhir is caught in the slip cordon, Australia v India, 1st Test, Melbourne, 4th day, December 29, 2011
Gambhir: too prone to flashing outside off © Getty Images
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When Gautam Gambhir started out, there was much to like about his batting.

He had nimble footwork for an opener, which made him an exceptionally good player against spinners. When a spinner flighted the ball, he would use his feet effectively to reach the pitch of the delivery. His eagerness to do so forced bowlers to shorten their length, to which Gambhir responded beautifully by going deep into his crease to create room.

Against the quicker men, he didn't possess the tightest of techniques, but like all good players, he found a way around it. He would always be looking for runs, which meant a lot of dabbing and running to rotate the strike, and also punishing anything that landed in his striking zone. He rarely missed out on an opportunity to score.

In addition to the ability to punish loose balls, he also mastered the art of making every start count and of scoring big hundreds. His hunger for runs and penchant for batting for long made up for the minor technical deficiencies.

While these qualities were enough to bring success initially in international cricket, Gambhir's technical imperfections showed up when the going got tough. Unfortunately for him, these snags were related to each other, which meant that one faux pas would lead to the other.

When he stood in his stance, his head had the tendency to fall towards the off side, and that resulted in a very short-and-across front-foot stride. The moment the head falls, the judgement of line gets blurred. Balls pitching on the line of the fourth or fifth stump seem to be pitching on off-stump, and instead of leaving them alone, you tend to fish at them. The ones pitching on middle seem to be drifting down the leg side, and hence you attempt to play them towards square leg or midwicket instead of straight. It goes without saying that the moment you miss the ball, you are caught dead in front.

Gary Kirsten was quick to not only point out these lapses but also correct them. He asked Gambhir to position his head on top of his right shoulder while in the stance, which took care of his habit of leaning on the bat. Once the head stopped falling, Gambhir started leaving alone the balls that were meant to be left alone.

The second adjustment was to take the forward stride towards the bowler, which resulted in the front foot going a lot straighter. In addition, he started playing the ball a lot straighter and also very late.

This tweaking worked well for Gambhir, kickstarting one of his most successful periods in international cricket. The best part about his progress was that while he was wiping out minor flaws in his technique, he also kept building on his strengths. The results were there for everyone to see, which included him reaching the top of the Test batting rankings.

 
 
It cannot be the case that Gambhir is not aware of the repercussions of opening the face of his bat to run the ball down fine, but at times instincts overrule rational thinking
 

In the last couple of years, though, a rather significant pattern has emerged in Gambhir's international performances. He has continued to be among the runs in the shorter formats, but has struggled to put together big innings in the longer format on a regular basis. He seems to come out with an attacking mindset in limited-overs cricket, which results in decisive foot movements, but oddly, he seems to be in two minds in the longer format. His "neither here nor there" frame of mind is among the major reasons for the decline in his Test form.

Perhaps it has something to do with the (bad) habits one tends to pick up while playing too much short-format cricket. Though Gambhir has shots all around the wicket, he prefers dabbing the ball down to the third-man region. While it's an easy single in the shorter formats, fielders at slips and gully plug that hole neatly in Test cricket. It cannot be the case that Gambhir is not aware of the repercussions of opening the face of his bat to run the ball down fine, but at times instincts overrule rational thinking.

In Australia and against New Zealand, he tried hard to be more judicious about the balls he played and left around the off stump. But just one error of judgement was enough to end his resolve each time; after leaving a few balls alone, he would be lured into playing one that too should have been left alone.

Gambhir's lack of Test runs isn't because of a technical failing, so he will find it hard to look for answers in manuals or from cricket coaches. His problem is with his mindset, particularly about controlling his instincts. It may not be a bad idea for him to spend a few hours with Sachin Tendulkar and pick his brains on the innings Tendulkar played in Sydney in 2004. In that particular innings of 241 not out, Tendulkar showed immense control over his faculties by not playing a single cover drive in the entire innings. Gambhir will have to follow suit by telling himself that there isn't a single run available behind the stumps to him in Test cricket. Also, perhaps he needs to make a resolution to play only in front of the stumps to fast bowlers.

He may only be a couple of good innings away from finding prime form, but he's also only a couple of poor innings away from getting dropped from the team. Now it's mind over matter.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Game_Gazer on (November 15, 2012, 11:55 GMT)

Very good batsman of spin bowling, have always had my doubts against swing, seam & pace though. Uses his hands than feet too much, good for Tip'n'Run, not for Test cricket. BTW, one of those much over-hyped players; must have been dropped ages before, for his arrogant behavior even if one could forgive his pathetic display last 3 years.

Posted by Thamara on (November 14, 2012, 19:18 GMT)

Gautham Ghambhir is certainly a very talented player. He is one of the most talented batsmen not only in the indian team but also in the world. I agree with you on the fact that he is not as consistent in test cricket as he is in ODI cricket. In my view, he is naturally an aggressive batsman and therefore in test cricket, he can't help playing some of his favorite shots. It is because of his aggressive mindset that he often falls out with opposition players. It is very difficult to change somebody's natural instincts as you have mentioned. The best thing is to stick with the natural way of doing things and turn that into our favour. I reckon Ghambhir should also take a leaf out of Sehwag's book. Sehwag never stop himself from playing shots even in test matches. If he did so, he would never be as successful as he is at the moment. Once I saw Ghambhir playing wonderful inning against Newzealand in a test match, which proved that his technique was good enough to play in any condition.

Posted by grizzle on (November 14, 2012, 18:33 GMT)

Despite the fact that Gambhir hasn't gotten a Test hundred in ages, he has done well occasionally (even away from home): the Cape Town test in SA in 2011 and the Sydney test in 2012 come to mind. The problem is that he is no longer able to convert these starts to big scores, something he was really good at doing some time ago. He just needs to buckle down and score that big hundred against the English, and if he can do that, India's prospects will improve tremendously. On a side note, one thing to be said for Gambhir is that he looks to try to address his failings as opposed to Sehwag, who will always play in his ridiculous way and will turn out to be a liability more often than not.

Posted by PPD123 on (November 14, 2012, 16:57 GMT)

Alexk400 did you even bother to read the entire article?... you say Aakash's anylysis is "bad" and then you literally copy paste his anyalysis and say thats what is the problem. eg "So i think everyone style has use in some times. For me Gambhir and sehwag problems are mental and not technique" thats exactly what Aakash is alluding to in his write-up...

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (November 14, 2012, 15:59 GMT)

I think Gambir has a problem of inadequacy in relation to varieties of shots. He keeps poking and prodding outside that off stump and nicks it more often than not to the slips. He HAS to find a way to counter that. He will be tested more so in that corridor outside off stump by all the England quicks. He should also learn to LEAVE the damn ball. The more he does that, the more better of his chances to score big runs. Because he's one of those players who LOVES to score big runs. He has a golden opportunity at home to put it right. My father always used to tell me: "Playing fast bowling is the EASIEST task in cricket" and do agree with him; especially when the bowler bowls everything outside the off stump, I can sit back and enjoy the view. The same applies to short pitches bowling as well. You ONLY play the ones that you think are coming at you (middle and leg). I know it's easier said than done, but I think Gambir's days as an opener are inching to an end.

Posted by bleedblue_sach on (November 14, 2012, 15:46 GMT)

Gambhir is one of those Excellent batsmen who can easily open the face of the bat and provide good catching practice to the slip fielders... LOL

Posted by Neeta on (November 14, 2012, 15:25 GMT)

Gauti has been a superb player for India and will continue to be so for the next few years. People putting pressure on him should know that when the going gets tough, then the tough people like Gauti get going. He is looking hungry for runs from what I can see from the various sources of cricinfo news about team India practice sessions. We can expect a couple of centuries from him in this series. Viru too should do well. These guys need to play out the first five-ten overs safely and then the day is theirs for the taking. Viru has no technical weaknesses as such but he should restrain himself when going after the spinners. He gets hyper aggressive when he sees a spinner come into the attack. Even if they play securely they should get 4 RPO against Swann which is quite good in test match situations. The English bowlers will go flat unless the pitch and the outfield is patchy which brings reverse swing into play but we have our very own Zak to bail us out in such situations 4-0 India.

Posted by itsthewayuplay on (November 14, 2012, 14:26 GMT)

The reason why Gambhir fishes outside to any bowler other than spin is because his technique and temperament are poor. Against the spinners he has time to pick the line and length but against the fast bowlers it's another story I'm afraid. He doesn't have the conviction to face up to the quicks so he's reading neither the line or length, doesn't get into position and as a result plays away from his body. He and for that matter Sehwag can count themselves fortunate that Finn's missing the 1st test. Two games away from being dropped??? He should have been dropped a while ago and the fact he hasn't been suggests that he won't be any time soon either regardless of how he performs. If England have done their homework they'll soften him up with some short pitched stuff at the head and body and then bowl across him outside the off stump.

Posted by Selassie-I on (November 14, 2012, 14:15 GMT)

Jonsey2 - There's a big difference between Gambhir and Marsh - Gambhir isn't rubbish!I mean c'mon Marsh averages in the Mid 30's in 1st class and list A, and then he gets a test cap! Really says something about the quality of Aus batting coming through these days, that you can't find a player with a 1st class ave of 40+! let alone the 50+, year on year that used to be compulsary to get that baggy green.

Posted by Al_Bundy1 on (November 14, 2012, 14:12 GMT)

Worst idea ever - spend a few hours with Sachin Tendulkar and pick his brains. After a training session with Tendulkar, Gambhir will start getting clean bowled, in addition to getting caught in the slips.

Posted by Selassie-I on (November 14, 2012, 14:03 GMT)

Sorry Aksah, good article again. I'ma fan of your technical articles.

Posted by Selassie-I on (November 14, 2012, 14:02 GMT)

@Posted by RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (November 14 2012, 11:37 AM GMT) - yes he has no issue with his technique, it's the shot selection where he is struggling. If you're playing the wrong shot to the ball, it doesn't really matter what your technique is. No matter how good a hook shot you play, it's not going to help to a yorker, the worlds most beautifully executed lob over the infield is pretty useless if mid on is stood exactly where the ball is bouncing, using the Gambhir example, nudging or late cutting to 3rd man is pretty pointless with 4 slips and a gully lined up to a fast bowler armed witha new ball on a bouncy Aus pitch!

Posted by muski on (November 14, 2012, 13:10 GMT)

Aakash-Though you have got many accolades including one guy pitching you for a future batting coach, you must bear in mind that these cricketers are not going to take seriously of what you say . This is becoz of the fact that when you got a chance to play, you were in the same boat as Gambhir if not couple of boats behind. Imagine if these statements which you made were to come from Dravid's mouth- it will be viewed in a different perspective becoz its comes from a guy who has done it all.

Posted by   on (November 14, 2012, 12:46 GMT)

Gambhir should stop always thinking about plotting MSD's downfall and instead concentrate on only his atting

Posted by   on (November 14, 2012, 12:19 GMT)

Why you guys all talk about Gambhir wat abt Mr.Captain COOL he averages very low than Gambhir he is not at all performing why no questions against him??

Posted by crikcinfo on (November 14, 2012, 12:03 GMT)

@Alexk400: Seriously ??? how many times have u seen Gambir caught on boundary because he was not "strong" enough to clear them? Almost all the recent failures of gambir is bcz he was caught in slip or LBW early in the innings as Akash pointed out. What does that have to do with strength??

Posted by RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (November 14, 2012, 11:37 GMT)

gambhir has no technical issues?????????? may be thats why he plays across the line to middle stump balls moving away and bouncing and gets leading edges

Posted by jassdeep on (November 14, 2012, 11:26 GMT)

gambhir hv to perform nw if he wana stay in d team dese r d last few chances for him.frm d last 2 yrs he doesnt hv any century in d test cricket nd d avg in d last 2 yrs is jst 28 as a opening batsman.nw he should knw dat d replacement is d place of rahane and murali vijay is ready nw dere r only 2 ways perform or go out.

Posted by alwayscricketfan_Sundu on (November 14, 2012, 11:23 GMT)

Fantastic piece ! U just belong to that rare breed of crickets who wield mastery over both the ball and the word

Posted by Alexk400 on (November 14, 2012, 10:02 GMT)

Again bad analysis. Gambhir has sound technique and temparament. Issue is not with technique. Issue for him is that he is not physically strong player. Everyone have different limitation. At present he is poking at the ball outside off. He is still good but if the bowler bowling fast in that channell he kinda exposed. May be he needs to learn to leave the ball more. We do not need another defensive akash chopra advising people how to score. Pathetic. That said akash chopra played crucial role in overseas tours because his style of holding one end and ball get old and other could able to score. So i think everyone style has use in some times. For me Gambhir and sehwag problems are mental and not technique. They still miffed at dhoni not respecting their contribution. Still lingering. For me sehwag and Gambhir need to score runs or they will be dropped for ever. Especially sehwag has to score big runs to keep his spot. Dhoni won't let sehwag bat at 4 when he tried to get rid of him.

Posted by I-Like-Cricket on (November 14, 2012, 9:58 GMT)

@CricketMaan. Well the last half of your paragraph solves itself really. Virat should be made the permanent vice captain of India in all forms (if he wishes to play them). Though I agree that its his success in shorter forms that has led him to believe that he is a great cricketer. The most I've seen of him is when they were here in Australia last year and his test form was poor at best but his ODI batting was brilliant.

Posted by CricketMaan on (November 14, 2012, 9:05 GMT)

Winning IPL 5 and leading a wrecked KKR to title has made him believe he is the best to lead Indian team. His recent disagreements with Dhoni's tactics while chasing that too in public has left a sour taste. For sure there is no harmony between Viru-Dhoni and Dhoni-Gauti..that has led to so many distractions, disappointments and derailments. Too much of change in the vice captaincy is also leading to confusion. Once it was Viru and then it was Gauti and who knows it will be Virat in Tests soon. That too spoils mindset. A great example is how Warnie got upset when he was ignored for captaincy while Ricky, Gilly, Pup all overtook him at various times, though he was bitterly disappointed, he did not let that affect his performances for his team. While Viru and GG are unhappy with the treatment, they should still find a way to put aside those differences and play for the team. Another example could be the 90s Pak team, disharmony due to captaincy issues, but united on field.

Posted by PhaniBhaskar24 on (November 14, 2012, 8:03 GMT)

One of the best articles that i have ever read....very simple and clear..with so much of technology around, Gambhir should have seen his faults in the footage itself...compramising on behind the wickets will really help him to make a big innings. Take a look at Gilchrist...the only left handed batsmen with very less pie of runs to third man compared to any other left hander

Posted by squarepeg on (November 14, 2012, 7:39 GMT)

Akash Chopra as usual got it absolutely right. He has correctly analysed Gambhir's outside the offstump weakness. It seems to me that it is also a bit to do with his physique and/or skills. He finds it quite difficult to drive along the ground off the front foot to anything above slow-medium. His other weakness stems from his relatively rigid frame, which makes pulling, sweeping or hooking a fairly uncomfortable work, like it was for Ganguly. Gautam should work at improving his body flexibility, may be yoga, or under specialist help.

Posted by TJAPUKAI on (November 14, 2012, 7:05 GMT)

Hi Aakash,Nice article as usual.You seem to possess the unique quality of analyst.Good future prospect of a batting coach.I'll put money on you.Not all batsmen(including greats) have the ability to give batting tips and coaching.You are 100% right about Gambhir.He seem to be in sense of mood of playing too much of "getting past slips".Such a great player of spin and pace.He needs to curb his enthusiasm to avoid becoming another "Kambli".I always felt so bad about Kambli being such a waste of talent.

Posted by sweetspot on (November 14, 2012, 6:37 GMT)

Gambhir has ruined his head by having gradiose visions of captaining the country and nonsense like that clouding his abilities as a player. He has never really lacked in ability or skill or reading the game at any stage. But he is emotional, a bit too tightly wound, and perhaps anxious at the moment to perform. Someone needs to settle him down, take a breath and just allow the next big score to come to him. It doesn't help that he bats with Sehwag either! Viru is in a world of his own.

Posted by dsig3 on (November 14, 2012, 5:42 GMT)

He and Sehwag are walking wickets when not playing at home. Dont worry, there are not many solid openers in all of Test cricket anymore. You could argue for Cook and Smith but thats about it.

Posted by   on (November 14, 2012, 5:14 GMT)

He may only be a couple of good innings away from finding prime form, but he's also only a couple of poor innings away from getting dropped from the team. Now that is spot on - the reality.

Posted by   on (November 14, 2012, 5:02 GMT)

As a left hander myself, I have had this problem of resorting to playing the ball down to third man when I could not get my other shots going. The upper cut was an instinctive nemesis for me. So I kind of understand his problem.

By the way, I feel the line "Gambhir will have to follow suit by telling himself that there isn't a single run available behind the stumps to him in Test cricket" is incomplete. Behind the stumps includes fine leg, point and gully regions too, right?

Posted by jonesy2 on (November 14, 2012, 4:51 GMT)

shaun marsh and gambhir are in the exact same boat im afraid. gambhir should find his touch against england though, couldnt ask for an easier way to get back into form

Posted by .Raina on (November 14, 2012, 4:50 GMT)

Gambhir does have a 'mindset' issue, but he has a 'technical' limitation too. He is more of a nudger to the short-of-good-length balls outside off. Many batsmen would go back-&-across and try to cover the line of the ball or cut the ball whenever there is some room, but Gambhir stays on the crease and nudges the ball. I don't think he cuts the ball at all. It has probably worked for him on slower tracks, and with not so fast bowlers; but with better bowlers and faster/bouncy pitches slanted-bat outside-off doesn't work for too long. He drives the full balls pretty well; He needs to take a tennis ball and get used to cutting and pulling too. This will certainly make his life easier and develop him into a better batsman.

Posted by india_sports_fan on (November 14, 2012, 4:21 GMT)

your way to assess technique is exceptional.I hope you get what you deserve.

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Aakash ChopraClose
Aakash Chopra Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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