Player of big occasions
Gautam Gambhir is someone who doesn't need an introduction. The people, who follow cricket even a little bit, know well about him. He is a match winner, a teamman and whenever he is out in the middle, he gives his 100%. Be it World T-20 final against Pakistan, Napier test in New Zealand or World cup 2011 final, he was there to save India. He has played crucial knocks most of the times when India needed him but suddenly he vanished from radars of national selectors. What could be the reasons? There were rumors of him being in a sour relationship with M.S.Dhoni which lead to his axing but the truth is something different.
Why was he dropped?
The main reason that he was dropped from the squad was his lack of form after World cup 2011. The test series In England in the same year was a disastrous one for Gambhir as he only managed 102 runs from 6 innings at an average of 17. Even likes of Amit Mishra and Praveen Kumar scored more runs than him in fewer innings and at a better average. That was not all. He struggled in Australia later that year as well. He finished that series with 181 runs at 22.62. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ryan Harris finished the series with better averages than him. New Zealand toured India later that year and Gambhir was expected to have gained form in between but that was not the case. He had to endure another unfruitful series where he averaged just 19.33 in three innings with a highest score of 34.
Glimpse of form in late 2012
When England toured India in October 2012, fans expected a 4-0 whitewash of England. The series was hyped as revenge series and the reason was that England thrashed Indians 4-0 on their tour of 2011. The pitches were spin friendly and Gautam Gambhir was expected to score huge runs as he was one of the best player of spin back then. He showed some signs of form in that series and accumulated 251 runs at 41.83 but it was not enough looking at the fact that his English counterpart Alistair Cook scored 562 runs at 80.20. Gambhir looked like a shadow of his past.
Decent limited overs form in between
In between these poor test outings, Gambhir played a few decent one day and T-20 innings. In 2012 he scored 685 runs at an average of 42.81 which was his third best year in terms of average. His strike rate of 81.93 was not bad either. His T-20 performance was not bad either with 311 runs at 25.91 but his strike rate of 109.89 was his lowest in his five year old T-20 career which showed that he was still not striking the ball as well as he did before. Despite a good ODI and decent t-20 record in 2012, his test form was disastrous by his standards. He only managed 474 runs at 31.60 and he had a bad year in test cricket prior to that as well. In 2011 he scored 470 runs in 15 innings at 31.33. The last time he scored a test hundred was against Bangladesh in January 2010. He made a comeback against England in 2014 but failed to grab the chance as he only managed 25 runs in 2 tests with a highest score of 18.
From a star to forgotten hero
So looking at these numbers, he was given enough chances. He averaged below 35 in three consecutive years but still M.S.Dhoni had enough faith in him. He was given an opportunity to make a comeback but he failed. The rise of Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and of late, KL Rahul didn't do much favour for Gambhir either. Murali Vijay, who was given opportunity in the place of him in test squad, immediately sealed his spot in the test team with a brilliant series against Australia. Shikhar Dhawan who was given opportunity later in the same series, scored a brilliant 187 on his debut and that too at a brisk pace. So with Vijay's brilliance and Dhawan's magnificent debut, India found two better openers for test cricket and Gambhir's test career came to a halt.
Just like rise of Murali Vijay, Rohit Sharma started converting his talent into results in ODI cricket after a promotion to the top against England. Gambhir managed only 153 runs in ODI cricket in 2013 from seven games. Although he amassed 406 runs at 25.37 in the IPL that year but Dhawan who was coming back from an injury, scored 311 runs in just 10 games and with a better strike rate and average. He was capable of playing big shots and he showed it during his debut inning of 187. Selectors swapped Dhawan with Gambhir for ICC Champions trophy which was held in England & Wales. Shikhar didn't disappoint and scored a hundred against South Africa on comeback. Later he went on to become leading scorer of the tournament. He followed his success later that year in the tri series, against Zimbabwe as well as Australia. He ended the year with 1162 runs at 50.52 and at a great strike rate of 97.89. With these numbers, he became first choice opener for India in all three formats and Gambhir , from being a hero, went on to be a unknown star in no time.
Gambhir in for Dhawan?
Fast forward to 2016, Shikhar Dhawan's form is what every critic is talking about. So far this year he has accumulated just 138 runs in 4 innings. 84 of those 138 came in one inning against West Indies. But how can one judge a player on the basis of just 4 innings? Although he is under pressure from the new batting sensation KL Rahul, he is still the best Left handed opener India have at the moment. Also his form in limited overs cricket is great with 287 runs at 57 in one day cricket and 301 runs in T-20Is at 25.
Gautam Gambhir who has enjoyed a great Duleep trophy tournament might be in good touch and Shikhar who failed in the Duleep trophy final might be a bit down on form at the moment, but still it won't be a great idea to swap them. Indian team will play 12 test matches this season at home and Shikhar might get back in touch. Gambhir will still have a chance to make a comeback if Dhawan fails against New Zealand.