October 14, 1981, Delhi
Left hand bat
Top order batter
Feisty and firm, capricious and correct, insatiable and insecure, Gautam Gambhir was one of the most complete batsmen between 2008 and the 2011 World Cup. He opened well in all three forms of the game. He could be more aggressive than Virender Sehwag, played the kind of back-to-the-wall innings that would do Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman proud, and accumulated without taking any risks, much like Sachin Tendulkar has been doing in the last quarter of his career. Either side of that period, though, livid disappointment with his technical flaws dominating his other attributes. Still, with over 10000 runs from his 56 Tests, 147 ODIs and 37 T20Is - not to mention leading Kolkata Knight Riders to two IPL titles - Gambhir has been a grand contributor to Indian cricket.
Gambhir almost did not make it, "not wanting to play anymore" when he was dropped for the 2007 World Cup. For about eight first years of his career, he was the domestic cheque that would not be honoured at international level. While the bowlers on the Ranji circuit swore by this little left-hand batsman, he had just two international centuries to show after 13 Tests and 19 ODIs when he was left out of the World Cup party.
He came back with massive runs in domestic cricket, a few important technical adjustments, and with the reputation of being the best player of spin in India, outside the international side. A century in his second ODI back and a final-winning fifty in the inaugural World Twenty20 paved the way for his Test return. Test fifties against Murali and Mendis in the summer of Murali and Mendis in 2008 told him he belonged. In his next 13 Tests, he scored eight centuries: centuries to set up wins, centuries to bat opposition out, and centuries to hold on for draws, including the near 11-hour marathon in Napier. The Arjuna Award came his way, the ICC named him the Test player of 2009, but much more tellingly Sehwag called him the best Indian Test opener since Sunil Gavaskar. He scored a match-winning 97 in the 2011 World Cup final.
After the World Cup, though, began a more serious, almost terminal decline. As the Indian Test side went from sublime to ridiculous, Gambhir's failures went unpunished. In England and Australia, where India lost eight continuous Tests, Gambhir was a walking wicket, poking at deliveries outside off. From being a captaincy candidate at one time, he went to struggling to keep his place in the side.
With the arrivals of M Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan, Gambhir was sidelined until an England tour in 2014 when he was called-up as back-up opener. But his return after more than a year out of international cricket ended on a sour note when he was dropped after four innings. Gambhir was on far firmer ground in the IPL - having been a mainstay at Delhi Daredevils and then going to Knight Riders for a record US $2.4 million in the 2011 auction. Gambhir went into the 2016 IPL with 39 fifty-plus scores - the second-most by an Indian in all T20 cricket.
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