Why’s Gautam so Gambhir?

May 31st, 2011

Didn’t someone say the biggest problem with Gautam was that he was too Gambhir? Yes, it was Sandeep Patil, his coach. Patil, a former national cricketer himself, had made this remark when Gambhir had yet to win himself the star status that he carries today. Gambhir is a serious cricketer, but is that “the biggest problem” with him? Maybe, it is.

As a cricketer toiling his heart out in domestic cricket and struggling hard to make his presence felt in national, Gambhir had shown a lot of promise. Unlike many talented youngsters, who fizzle out when tested in the national team, he ably lived up to the promise – in all forms of the game. With every great knock on the field, he only proved Patil’s point.

But that is the second part of the remark. He indeed is very serious about everything. But isn’t the first part also true? Hasn’t Gautam done enough harm to himself, his cricket and the national cricket team by taking his immediate job – playing as the skipper of Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League (IPL) – too seriously?

After a rigorous World Cup that India, with much hard work and ado, managed to ultimately win, the burnout that most players felt was not misplaced. And Gambhir, who top-scored against Sri Lanka in the final match of the grand tournament, had played more than his part. A silent crusader, he did all the hard work in the game, held the fort strongly when going looked very tough for India and built the foundation mounted on which M S Dhoni was able to smash the historic six to get home the World Cup.

He certainly was serious about his job.

But then came the fourth edition of IPL, the mighty glitz-and-pomp 20-20 mega entertainment bonanza, in which he was to stand in as the captain of his new team. He did it, again, quite ably, leading from the front and lifting from the pits the morale of a team struggling to perform. That Kolkata Knight Riders should even make it to the eliminator stage was a big achievement. Many nothing-less-than-trophy-is-good-enough Bengalis were, for some reason, not even complaining.

As his team bowed out of the tournament’s semis, the picture of a distraught Gambhir gripping his shoulder, pain writ all over his face, spoke volumes about the tragedy of a man who was so serious about a job at hand that he jeopardised a greater opportunity ahead.

With all senior players rested or unfit or not available for the forthcoming tour to the Caribbean, Gambhir had been named the captain of team India for the one-day international and 20-20 matches against West Indies. In the absence of Sachin, the maestro; Dhoni, the captain courageous; Sehwag, the ball thrasher; and Yuvraj, flamboyance personified; it certainly wasn’t going to be an easy tour. But who have seen Gambhir play know he is not the one to be taken over by tough challenges.

His IPL team says it did not force him to play, his physio says he must not play for at least six weeks and he is set to miss the Caribbean tour. The tests confirm that he had been playing with “serious” shoulder and groin injury all through IPL. His franchise may not have known about it, but he certainly did, and he had the option of pulling out. But, perhaps, he was too serious about his game to do that.
As India sends a bunch of young boys to take on West Indies, the team has just four members – Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Virat Kohli and Munaf Patel – from the mighty composition that beat the world less than two months back.

The outcome of the tour would certainly be anything but predictable. The young team may spring a surprise for the Indian fans with better-than-expected performance, or shock the world that a world-beating Indian team crumbled under pressure.

Of the two, which one actually happens remains to be seen. But what we have already seen is that the game of Mr Gambhir will be missed on a greater platform because he was seriously playing 20-20 club cricket.

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