From Napier to Mumbai: Gautam Gambhir’s Five Memorable Innings
India’s World Cup hero Gautam Gambhir announced his retirement from cricket on Tuesday, 4 December 2018.
In his 58 Test appearances for India, Gambhir has scored 4154 runs at an average of 41.95. In the 147 ODIs, Gambhir’s tally stands at 5238 runs, while in 37 T20Is, he has scored 932 runs.
In his international career which spanned 15 years, Gambhir played an important part in India’s World T20 success in 2007 and again in 2011 when India were crowned World champions at home.
In Tests, too, Gambhir had his moment under the sun for India. He has a unique distinction of scoring centuries in five consecutive Test matches. He is joint-second on the list with Jacques Kaliis and Mohammad Yousuf. Sir Donald Bradman tops the list with six.
As Gambhir calls it a day after playing his final Ranji Trophy match against Andhra from Thursday, 6 December, here’s a look at his top five innings in international cricket which defined his career.
97 vs Sri Lanka, ICC World Cup, 2011
The most important innings in his cricketing career, Gautam Gambhir again reprised the role of India’s saviour in a World Cup final, after the maiden 2007 T20 World Cup triumph.
Chasing 275 for a win, India were looking down the barrel with both their high-profile openers – Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar.
It was Gambhir, first with Virat Kohli and then with skipper MS Dhoni, who anchored India’s run-chase to safety. With Kohli he stitched a valuable 83-run stand. This was followed by the all-important 109-run partnership with Dhoni.
Gambhir took his time to settle in as his innings garnered pace. Gambhir’s watchful innings of 97 comprised 9 fours. He got a lifeline when he was dropped on 30, but after that it was a flawless, well-panned out innings.
By the time Thisara Perera dismissed Gambhir, India were in a commanding position and it was skipper Dhoni, who eventually carried the team home.
Dhoni’s innings might have earned him the Man of the Match award but it was Gambhir, who brought India back in the game after those initial jolts.
75 vs Pakistan, ICC T20 World Cup, 2007
With Sehwag ruled out due to an injury, Gambhir had the added responsibility of ensuring a good start for India in the final.
Debutant Yusuf Pathan and Robin Uthappa didn’t make Gambhir’s job any easier as they went early with India stranded at 40/2 in the sixth over. India needed someone to keep the scoreboard ticking, without taking any risk.
Gambhir, being the seasoned campaigner, took up the job as he pushed some lovely drives down the ground and kept on rotating the strike. He played every ball on its merit, punishing the loose deliveries. The opener from Delhi reached his fifty in 38 balls.
As wickets kept falling at the other end, Gambhir chugged along to reach 75 off 54 balls, taking the occasional risk. By the time Gambhir got dismissed, India were 130/5. He scored his runs at a decent pace, hitting 8 fours and 2 sixes.
In the end when India won by mere five runs, it was Gambhir’s 75 which made the difference as none of India’s top five batsmen managed to score even 20 runs, but Gambhir.
137 vs New Zealand in Napier, 2009
Coming into the second Test in Napier, India were leading the three-match Test series 1-0. The visitors had won the first Test in Hamilton. India went on to draw the Test in Napier, courtesy an epic (literally) innings from Gautam Gambhir.
New Zealand had posted a humongous total of 619 in their first innings. Meanwhile, India could manage only 305, as New Zealand enforced a follow on.
Gambhir’s 137 in the second innings came off 436 balls, which was more than 40 percent of the total balls India needed to bat to save the Test. If that wasn’t enough, he innings lasted for a mammoth 643 minutes, over a period of two days.
It was Gambhir’s crucial partnerships with Dravid, Tendulkar, and Laxman that rescued India after they were asked to follow on by New Zealand, who declared at 619/9 in their first innings.
By the time Gambhir was dismissed, India were well assured of a draw, which helped them maintain their lead in the series, which they eventually won 1-0 after another draw in Wellington.
Till date it remains to be Gautam Gambhir’s finest innings not only outside India but in his entire cricketing career.
150* vs Sri Lanka in Kolkata, 2009
India was leading the five-match ODI series, 2-1. The fourth ODI was being played at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
Sri Lanka, riding on a 118 by Upul Tharanga, posted 315/6 in their allotted 50 overs.
India, who were looking to wrap up the series at the Eden Gardens, didn’t get off to a great start. They lost their openers in the first four overs.
Gambhir, who came first down, was accompanied by a young Virat Kohli, who was yet to score his first century for the senior side. But the duo started well, batting steadily. Gambhir, being the senior pro, took the initiative as he attacked the Sri Lankan bowling. The Sri Lankan bowlers were lashed all around the ground as Kohli played the role of the second-fiddle.
The Delhi duo put up a 224-run stand for the 3rd wicket which remains India’s 2nd highest 3rd-wicket partnership in ODIs. Kohli brought up his maiden ODI ton before being dismissed for 107.
Gambhir batted right till the end to see India home, with nine balls to spare. In the end, he was unbeaten on 150. His innings included 16 fours, as he maintained a strike rate of 109.48.
To cap off a perfect night, Gambhir, who was adjudged the Man of the Match, gave his award to Kohli as a nice gesture for scoring his first ODI century.
93, 64 vs South Africa in Cape Town, 2009
After a good first Test in Durban, Gambhir had to skip the second Test due to an injury. But the break hardly mattered. In the deciding third Test, Gambhir picked it up from where he had left in Durban.
India were in spot of bother after they lost two early wickets in response to South Africa's 362.
After battling his initial few overs against the Dale Steyn, Gambhir came into his elements to pull India through with a 222-ball 93. Again, Gambhir pulled off an epic innings which lasted for well over six hours.
Again, in the second innings, it was Gambhir, whose resolute defence was at the fore when he again played out a gritty 64 off 184 balls. His innings not only ensured a draw at Cape Town but also helped India to draw the three-match Test series.
South Africa’s Jacques Kallis won the Man of the Match, but it was Gambhir’s 93 and 64 which had greater bearing on the match.
After the 137 in Napier, it was the Newlands’ pitch which highlighted Gambhir’s patience and grit at the top of the batting order.