Gautam Gambhir: The most underappreciated Indian cricketer?

Uday Joshi

Gautam Gambhir

It was around 8 o'clock in the evening on April 2nd, 2011, the day whole of India had stopped. It was the day that had the power to either destroy or blossom the happiness index of the nation. After 28 years of meditation, India had a golden opportunity to win the ICC Cricket World Cup on their home soil. It would have been first of its kind as no other host team had ever won an ICC World Cup in their own backyard.

A billion people's hearts were at stake and it almost seemed to have been broken after India were 31/2! But amidst all the uncontrollable and unfathomable pressure, one man stood up and carried the ferry to the safer side of the river. He ensured that he had left the team within a marginal distance to the ultimate glory. It was none other than the southpaw from Delhi named Gautam Gambhir.

With his unwavering concentration, he scored 97 runs which were probably the most important runs for India in the entire tournament. But as has been the case with the Indian team and many of its players, people's affinity for flashiness and over-exuberance over flair led to under celebration of one of the greatest one-day knocks of this decade. Gambhir was no different too, as his invaluable contribution was diminished by MS Dhoni's dream innings of 91*.

Gautam Gambhir might not have been as flamboyant as Yuvraj Singh or Mahendra Singh Dhoni or even his great mate Virender Sehwag to that matter, but he did matter to Indians when it mattered the most. Gautam Gambhir probably played two of the most defining knocks in Indian history.

Along with his masterful 97, another gem of a knock he played came on September 24, 2007. His 75 against arch-rivals Pakistan ensured India had a decent target on the board, and till this date for me, it is the best World Cup moment of Indian cricket in the last 20 years. But again on that day, Irfan Pathan stole the show and denied Gambhir his rightful place for his contribution.

Gambhir was fiery, feisty, hostile and at the same time elegant, stylish and classy when it came to the 22 yards. He was probably one of the most accomplished Indian batsmen against spin bowling that I have witnessed. His many test knocks were full of grit and reluctance. His 137 off 436 balls at Napier is one of the finest innings by an Indian opener overseas.

Gambhir showed the world what he could have given to the Indian team as a captain when he won his 2nd IPL title in 2014 for the Kolkata Knight Riders. He has scored more than 4000 runs in IPL which shows the kind of adaptability he had. He never backed down and never in his entire career was seen to have shown any sort of negativity on the field. He always oozed positive energy as a captain and as a batter.

In a career spanning almost 15 years, Gautam played 58 test matches and 147 ODI matches and has managed to score more than 4000 and 5000 runs respectively, and at a healthy average too. And, for a player to have performed the way he did in between 2007 to 2011 was exceptional. He was an important part of the team when India became no. 1 in the test rankings.

Like every other sportsperson, Gambhir had his fair share of failures too, but that didn't stop him from lifting himself to the best version of himself. For many who grew up watching cricket in the last decade and early part of this decade, Gambhir will have a special place in their hearts.

For some, he may be a childhood hero while for some others he may be another "unsung" hero. But there is no denying the fact that Gambhir's career, though, overshadowed by other players in the team, has been a great one. He is undoubtedly a legend in his own right. He was a great fighter and actually, he still is one. His charity works are well recognized and hope he continues to do the same.

Gauti ensured that he played the game hard, but fair. He has managed to create his own small fan base, but for the things he has achieved on the field, he must never go underappreciated. For, he has given us so much joy, that, in fact, it is the right time that we must look back at his career with respect and also celebrate it at the same time.