Former Indian opener Gautam Gambhir is set to retire from all cricket, calling time on a career that began in 1999-2000, and has lasted almost two decades. His last match will be Delhi's Ranji Trophy match against Andhra at his home ground, Feroz Shah Kotla, beginning on December 6.
Gambhir announced his retirement through a video on social media. He admitted he had been "contemplating" and "dreading" quitting the game, but the "negative noises" were only increasing everyday, eventually forcing him to take the call. "It slapped me hard when I got those three ducks in a row in the 2014 IPL," Gamhir said. "Then again when I had a dreadful tour to England the same year. In 2016 I was on my knees again. I was dropped after Rajkot Test match against England. I was searching for my confidence in that deep, dark pit but I could only lay my hands on the same sharp, disturbing noise. It said the same: 'IT IS OVER GAUTI'."
Gambhir's last appearance for India came in the first Test of the home series against England in late 2016. Overall, Gambhir, 37, played 58 Tests, scoring 4154 runs at an average of 41.95, including nine centuries and 22 fifties. He played 147 ODIs, scoring 5238 runs at an average of 39.68 and a strike-rate of 85.25. Gambhir also played 37 T20Is, scoring 932 runs at a strike-rate of 119.02.
Gambhir was part of two World Cup triumphs for India, top-scoring in both finals. He made 75 in the 2007 World T20 final, when India beat Pakistan by five runs. In the 2011 World Cup final, batting at No.3, he scored 97 to revive India after Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar had fallen early. MS Dhoni sealed the title with a six while his batting partner Yuvraj Singh finished as Player of the Tournament, but India might not have crossed the finish line without Gambhir's steely presence in the top order.
Gambhir formed one of India's most stable and durable opening partnerships in world cricket with Sehwag, the duo putting on a record (for India) 4412 runs in 87 innings together from 2004 to 2012. Their tally is the fifth best for any pair of openers in Test cricket. Gambhir was also part of the India team that ascended to the No.1 spot in Test cricket in 2009 under MS Dhoni, and his rich vein of form in 2008 and 2009 earned him the ICC Test Player of the Year award in 2009.
Between 2008 and 2010, Gambhir made at least one half-century in 11 consecutive Test matches, equalling the record of Vivian Richards, who had achieved the same feat in 1976-1977. In that period, Gambhir also hit centuries in five consecutive Tests in 2009-10, the joint second-longest such streak. In 2009, he was ranked the No.1 batsman in Test cricket in the ICC's rankings. During this period, Gambhir also played what is commonly regarded as his greatest Test innings, staying at the crease for 643 minutes while making 137 when India were following-on against New Zealand in Napier. Gambhir's vigil let India draw the Test and complete a rare series win against New Zealand.
Gambhir also led India in six ODIs, a five-match series against New Zealand in late 2010, and a solitary ODI against West Indies in December 2011.
Though Gambhir could not make a comeback to the India side after 2016, he continued to play domestic cricket for Delhi. He enjoyed being the mentor more than the performer, and even declined captaincy allowing younger players like Rishabh Pant and Nitish Rana to take leadership roles.
However, the old fears returned to haunt him when Gambhir struggled at the start of IPL 2018 after returning to Delhi Daredevils, having been released by Kolkata Knight Riders - a team he had led to IPL titles in 2012 and 2014. Gambhir said he realised then his "time was up" and he could fight no further. "After more than 15 years of cricket for my country I want to retire from playing this beautiful game."
Gambhir said the memories he would cherish were the happier ones, none bigger than being the highest scorer in the two World Cup finals he played in. He also looked back fondly on being part of the No.1 Test team, and winning the triangular CB series in Australia in 2008. "This may sound a little wishful but I've seen wishes come true," he said. "Two World Cups, highest run-getter in the final of both of these games is the stuff dreams are made of.
"Somewhere on the top is being the No. 1 Test team in the world. A trophy I'll look at very fondly is the one I got for being awarded the ICC best Test batsman of the year in 2009. For a purist like me, it is a reward for somewhat knowing where my off stump was. The historic series win in New Zealand and the CB series in Australia will be reflected upon fondly. But I hope the current Indian team Down Under can overshadow our feats."
Among his other domestic accomplishments, Gambhir led Delhi to the Ranji Trophy title in 2007-08. He was also looking forward to the final chapter of his cricketing journey being at his home ground. "It is all coming to an end from where it started at Feroz Shah Kotla. I am a big one on loyalty. I am glad that I could finish with teams that I started my journey with. In this case ending with both Delhi Daredevils and Delhi domestic side has given me immense satisfaction."
Gambhir said he had always valued "timing" in his game and that had gone missing, signalling it was time to move on. "As a batsman I have always valued timing. I know the time is just right. I am sure it's sweet as well. Goodbye and good luck."