Was Gautam Gambhir the most dependable captain India never had?

Published 04/28/2017, 10:57 AM EDT


When a myriad of connoisseurs of international cricket regard MS Dhoni as the best captain India has ever produced, is it even valid to rank his abilities and achievements against someone of the likes of Gautam Gambhir? I guess not. But is there a possibility that the Indian selectors in 2013 missed out on something that could have altered the future of Indian cricket as we see it today.

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Gautam Gambhir has on countless occasions exhibited his ability and skill to the fullest. He can be regarded as the ‘Dark Knight’ of the Indian World Cup finals. In 2007 World T20 final his fearless inning of 75 from 54 deliveries lead India to a defendable total of 157 in 20 overs. On a pitch where none of the other Indian batsmen even managed to score above 30 runs, Gambhir showed a touch of his class. Similar to this was the World Cup final of 2011. In Mumbai where the Indian side had already lost Sehwag and Tendulkar at a score of 31 Gambhir paced the Indian innings with great perseverance and built partnerships with Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni. He could have trickled on singles to complete his century when he stepped down the wicket to Thisara Perera and lost his wicket. On both the occasions he was a serious contender for the man of the match. But he did not win the same because of his performance being overshadowed.

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Over a billion people in the nation have experienced the ascend of Virat Kohli in the Indian side from a 20-year old lad to a 28-year old captain of the Test side. It was imminent that Kohli was going to be leading the side one day or other, when a place in the Indian top order was questionable for Gambhir after 2011. Kohli undoubtedly has taken up on the responsibility as the captain of the test side very well with 16 wins out of 26 played. But it has to be considered that out of those 26 only 6 were played outside the Indian subcontinent and India have lost 3 out of those 6. Gautam Gambhir did not have this big of an opportunity to lead the Indian side. However, he did lead the team for 6 one day internationals with an undefeated record.

One brilliant example of Gambhir’s captaincy can be found in his recent match for KKR in IPL against the Royal Challengers Bangalore. The KKR batting first could only manage a total of 131 in 19.3 overs. This certainly was not a score to be proud of in the T20 format. But much to the surprise of the spectators the KKR bounced back and bowled the RCB side out for a meagre total of 49. This win could be essentially credited to the witty captaincy of Gambhir. He did not start with his premium combination of spinners as in most of his matches. But this time he turned the responsibilities upon the shoulders of his pacers. Much like the Tests, he placed two slips and a gully for the first 4 overs. His out of the box cerebration paid off with the quick wickets of Virat Kohli, Mandeep Singh and AB de Villiers.

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It was quite evident that the Kolkata Knight Riders were a struggling side in the IPL for the first three seasons. They could not manage to appear in the finals even once then. It was in 2011 that the side bought Gambhir for a record fee of 11 crores and appointed him as the captain. This move changed fortunes of the team for good. The team who were being out-performed even after presence of players like Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum and Shoaib Akhtar won 2 out of the next 4 seasons after this change. Undeniably Gambhir brought some quintessential qualities into the team that the side was lacking. His contribution to the team has not been only as the captain. He has been a serious contender for the orange cap in most of the seasons. He also holds the record for the most fifties and the most fours in the IPL.

Gambhir has proven himself on every opportunity that was presented to him. His absence in the current Indian side is still debatable against the out of form Shikhar Dhawan. His aggression in the field is complementary to the cool stature presented by Dhoni. It is and always will be a matter of speculation of what would have happened if Gambhir went on to be selected as the successor of Dhoni. With most of his career away from limelight in the recent years he still manages to grab attention at every instance possible and does not fail to impress.

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Tanay Banerjee

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