Gautam Gambhir is one of the most underrated names in the history of Indian cricket. The Delhi left-hander was always up for a battle. If you take the three most prestigious limited-overs trophies India have won this decade, Gambhir has played a critical role in two of those finals (World Cup in 2011, World T20 in 2007).
He had a successful international career but he will also be remembered for his IPL exploits. He started off with his home side Delhi Daredevils (DD) and played there for the first three seasons before he moved to Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in 2011. Gambhir’s move to KKR changed the franchise’s fortunes as well as after a sedate first three seasons they won two titles (in 2012 and 2014) under the left-handed opener’s captaincy.
In fact, Gambhir’s success as a captain and batsman also came at KKR. In the six years, he was at KKR, he amassed in excess of 300 runs every single season. However, he moved back to DD in 2018 and didn’t have a great start and he eventually dropped himself from the team.
Hence, as Gambhir bids adieu to the game, let’s look back at some of his best IPL knocks.
#5 75* vs Rajasthan Royals – 2011 (Jaipur)
After a lacklustre three seasons, KKR were desperate to turn their fortunes. This was Gautam Gambhir’s first season with the Kolkata franchise and they were off to a winning start.
In the second game of the fourth edition, they faced Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur. KKR inserted the home team in to bat first and restricted them to 159. Most RR batsmen got starts but no one could convert it into a substantial score.
Chasing 8 runs per over, KKR lost Manvinder Bisla early and they were 8/1. Gambhir then walked in at 3 and changed the tempo of the innings. He struck a composed 44-ball 75 to help KKR cruise to the target. He shared an unbeaten 152-run stand with Jacques Kallis (who scored 80 in 65 balls) as KKR wiped off the chase with 9 balls to spare.
Gambhir in his 44-ball knock struck 11 fours and 1 six as he looked in total control of the proceedings in the middle. For his unbeaten knock of 75, the then KKR skipper was awarded the Man of the Match.
#4 90* vs Sunrisers Hyderabad – 2016 (Hyderabad)
In 2016, KKR suffered a loss and won one game to kick off the season. In their first away game of the season, pacers Morne Morkel (2/35) and Umesh Yadav (3/28) combined to restrict Sunrisers Hyderabad to 142 in their 20 overs.
On a slowish track, Gambhir dropped anchor and batted through to help KKR win by 8 wickets. He scored an unbeaten 90 in 60 balls giving KKR the second win of the season. He set the tone right at the top with Robin Uthappa as the duo shared a 92-run opening stand, giving KKR the start they needed. They played out SRH’s main bowlers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mustafizur and looked to score against the other bowlers. The inexperienced bowlers were taken for runs as KKR cruised to victory.
Even though Umesh Yadav took three wicket-haul that set up the game, it was Gambhir who was awarded with the player of the match for his composed knock of 90.
#3 80 vs Chennai Super Kings – 2008 (Delhi)
The first season was one of the best seasons for Gautam Gambhir with the bat. In the first half of the tournament, he had already scored three half-centuries and was looking in great touch.
In DD’s 7th game of the tournament, they squared off against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) for the first time. After being put into bat, DD did get off to a good start but two wickets in two balls pegged them back. However, Gambhir joined forces with Shikhar Dhawan to bring back the team on track. The duo shared a 121-run stand and put Delhi on course for a big score.
Gambhir was the aggressor in the partnership as he took the attack to the CSK bowlers. He struck 80 off 49 balls which included 11 fours and 1 six to help DD get past 180. However, Gambhir’s knock went in vain as CSK won a thrilling game on the last ball.
#2 71* vs Delhi Daredevils – 2017 (Kolkata)
Gautam Gambhir was a master of run chases where the required run-rate hovered around 7 or 8. He exactly knew how to pace his innings and which bowlers to target.
In the 32nd match of the 2017 edition, KKR squared off against DD at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. Skipper Gautam Gambhir won the toss and put DD into bat first. DD had a rousing start as Sanju Samson (60) and Shreyas Iyer (47) were going great guns. However, the KKR bowlers pulled it back nicely towards the end to keep DD to 160.
Chasing a par total, KKR lost Sunil Narine early. However, DD skipper Zaheer Khan broke down early in his spell and Gambhir smartly played out Kagiso Rabada who was bowling really well from the other end. And once again, Gambhir mastered the 160-type of a run-chase. His unbeaten 71 (off 52 balls) took KKR home with more than 3 overs to spare.
#1 93 vs Royal Challengers Bangalore – 2012 (Kolkata)
This 93 is Gautam Gambhir’s highest score in his IPL career. Not only IPL, but this was Gambhir’s highest T20 score of his career.
After losing the first couple of games of the 2012 season, KKR had a great run. In the 8th game of the season against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), KKR won the toss and batted first.
Brendon McCullum struggled to get going but Gambhir from the other end played the role of the aggressor as he maintained the tempo of the innings. He overshadowed McCullum in the 95-run opening partnership as Gambhir kept going fluently. Barring Daniel Vettori, all the RCB bowlers were taken for runs. Gambhir struck an excellent 93 in 51 balls which included 9 fours and 5 sixes as he helped KKR get to an above-par total of 190.
He might have missed out on a ton but his 93 set up the game. Chasing a huge score, no RCB batsman supported Chris Gayle who scored 86 as KKR romped home with a 47-run win.