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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Is Gautam Gambhir really out of form? The question is being asked, and a few people - MS Dhoni, Gary Kirsten, and Gambhir himself - have spoken about it without really offering any answers.

In 2009 Gambhir amassed 727 runs in five Tests at 90.87. That included four centuries in four Tests. Then he made a silly decision. He opted out of the third and final Test against Sri Lanka at the Brabourne. He had just hit 114 and 167 in the two previous Tests. In 25 Tests leading up to that decision, Gambhir was averaging 77.

Since opting to skip a Test match for his sister's wedding, Gambhir has averaged 24.41 from eight Tests (he's yet to bat in the current Test in Hyderabad). On return in January this year, he began with 23, 116 and 68 against Bangladesh, but since then has scratched around for just 86 runs in five Tests. I understand he picked up an injury during this period as well, and struggled on comeback from that injury, getting out twice in the first over in Galle, but is there something ominous about that decision taken in November last year?

His was the first instance I've heard of an international player skipping a Test to attend his sister's wedding. Sunil  Gavaskar went an entire tour of the West Indies without seeing his son Rohan who was born while he was on tour in New Zealand. Many cricketers have gotten married during the off season. Death, illness and paternity leave, have been accepted in this era. But a sister's marriage? That is unacceptable. We live in an era where even the BCCI, for all its shambolic management, announces dates for matches well in advance; at times even a year in advance. You're telling me Gambhir and his family couldn't have scheduled the wedding after the third Test? And would Gambhir have missed an IPL match to attend his sister's wedding? 

This sets a dangerous precedent. Gambhir wasn't injured, he wasn't fatigued. Test cricket is supposedly the ultimate, but seeing a player skip a match was unpardonable. Forget the injury. The reason for Gambhir's drastic dip in form is a change in mentality. He thought he could do that because there was no one else available to challenge his place in the team. Now he's struggling for runs and has M Vijay, with a century in his last Test innings, looming in the background.

Anshuman Gaekwad, speaking to Mid-Day after Gambhir's decision, had this to say: "Anything can happen in this game. When you are in form - and Gambhir is in great form - it is very dangerous to take a break, however small. You never know... the guy who takes your place might just score a big hundred and you'll struggle to get back."

And that, as they sail, is the proverbial nail on the head. 













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