|Font Size -||-A+A|
In fact, he hasn’t had the opportunity to do so since December 2010, as the centurion captain against New Zealand at Vadodara. Rather, against Australia at the Adelaide Oval, Gambhir walked back a rather disappointed man. But just like the last time he was dismissed in the 90s — the World Cup final — India pulled off one of its more famous wins during an ODI on Australian soil.
Putting his best foot forward on this tour on Sunday, Gambhir sparkled his way to a match-winning 92 during a big chase. And for the first time in a long time, it wasn’t the nudge-and-flick Gambhir on display, but one that outhit a clobbering Virender Sehwag as the Delhi pair walked out to open the batting in Sachin Tendulkar’s absence.
Gambhir started the proceedings by stepping out to Mitchell Starc and weaving him through the packed off-side for his first boundary in the second over. While Sehwag carved Ryan Harris into the sweeper fence twice in the following over, Gambhir raced ahead pulling Starc with ferociousness for a four in the third, before leaning into him for an exquisite cover-driven boundary in the fifth.
As Sehwag and Gambhir finally exchanged ends and bowlers in the eighth, Starc kept the ODI double-centurion quiet while Gambhir tore into Harris with hunger. The left-hander hit one past second slip’s reach to bring up boundary number four, before tonking him past point for his fifth, but more importantly India’s first unbeaten 50-run stand in a long time.
It ended next over with Sehwag’s dismissal, but Gambhir moved — from strength to strength. He ran his doubles hard with Virat Kohli around, before taking India seamlessly through to the slog with Rohit Sharma as his partner. Rohit gave Gambhir company for a period of 14 overs between the 19th and the 33rd, and the pair made the middle-overs exciting by attacking strategically from both ends.
When Rohit hammered Starc for a six, Gambhir found the gaps. And when Gambhir flicked Clint McKay for a four to bring up his fifty, Rohit kept the singles ticking. “I know there has been a lot of talk about me not getting hundreds. But I would much rather get out in the 90s and see the team win than score a century and lose the game,” said Gambhir.
Twice in the past, Gambhir has ended up on the losing side after scoring a century in one-dayers. And both have come against his opponents in this tri-series — against Sri Lanka in 2005 and against the Aussies in 2008. But never has Gambhir ended up on the losing side after scoring a 90. Incidentally, those also arrived against the same teams. Against the Lankans in the World Cup final last year. And versus the Aussies today. The trinket clutching, at least as of now, can surely wait.
When media put its foot in opener’s well-meaning mouth
There’s no media like the Indian electronic media. And with them around, no answer — however harmless in nature — is a non-controversial answer. Gautam Gambhir learned that the hard way at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday.
Just before the Man of the Match’s post-match press conference ended, Gambhir was asked: “You didn’t play in Perth and will not play one of the following matches due to the rotational policy. When will we get to see the best XI playing together?” Gambhir gave a straightforward answer. “Any XI giving their best is the best XI. Today’s was the best XI in the team,” he said. Running live on a channel back home, the second part of his answer made breaking news. Why, you may ask. Because without Sachin Tendulkar in the playing XI, it made for sensational news. That channel’s reporter in Adelaide was sent an SOS saying: “Gambhir said India played their best XI today. Please enquire more.” Soon all news reporters on the spot were asked to change their story from ‘Shining India’ to ‘Rift Within Team’.
And completely out of context, Michael Clarke was later asked: “Do you think this was India’s best XI?” Clarke looked bemused. “It probably cannot be with Sachin Tendulkar not in it.” Indeed said the broadcast men, indeed.