T20 has fired up Gambhir

cricket blogs for Yahoo Cricket Columns

Was the usual frisson missing from an IndiaPakistan encounter or did we simply think so because India won so easily at Dhaka on Tuesday night? With reports suggesting the rain clouds kept people away, the National Stadium was far from full and the ambience was somehow not the same, or so it seemed from television images.


In such circumstances that are not overtly inspirational, the Indian team are usually the first to succumb.


Remember the World Cup of 2007 where the team simply slumped at the Queen's Park Oval? There is, however, a new zing to the cricket of Team India now and we have to thank the IPL for it.


By forcing players to focus their talents in a narrower range and perform against very sharp deadlines, the condensed format has opened up new vistas for Indian cricket. And yet, in Dhaka, it was the supercool head of a man who has been seen frequently to lose his bearings in the shorter forms of the game who kickstarted the Indian innings.


One season down the road they could even be speaking of him as a veteran, so senior a hand is Virender Sehwag now. Such distorted views are prevalent in Indian cricket at the moment when the great debate about seniors and youth is on. The match was only the third instance in 12 years of ODIs in which not one of Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly were in the playing XI for Team India.


Sehwag's calm play was instrumental in India getting off to a flier and fulfilling their batting potential on an easy-paced pitch that was very batsman-friendly. He had considerable help from the most improved batsman of the year who undoubtedly is Gautam Gambhir.


While the ODIs Down Under helped Gambhir take a major step towards attaining his potential, the T-20 stuff made him more of a rounded performer who bats smart now.


It is a surprise that the pair put on only their first century stand in an ODI but then they have not opened that much together for India.


Given India's riches in the matter of batsmen ready to take on the new ball and strike it creatively, to get a chance to open has been a scarce opportunity.


With Gambhir settling in with the two seniors at the top we see a vision of the future with the Delhiite bound to be there for some years now. For a large part of his career, Sehwag may have suffered the Michael Slater syndrome by which runs seem to come in a Test match at virtually Twenty-20 speed while failures in the shorter versions have rankled.


Gambhir is unlikely so suffer in the same manner.


Gambhir may not be as gifted a stroke maker as his colleague but, perhaps, he is more intelligent in application of his skills. He plays within his limitations until he has to aspire to accelerate.


As the sensible half of this new partnership, he lends a different look to Team India in limited-overs cricket.


When Sachin returns he would obviously like his number one spot back and with Sehwag he forms a positive combination the team cannot afford to break up regardless of Sehwag's hit and miss percentages.


Gambhir at three is still a good option because he steps in easily when an early wicket goes to the new ball.


Young batsmen are crowding the firmament and many of them will feel qualified to be given the same chance of striking the new ball when the field restrictions are on. Robin Uthappa, a floater now, can stabilise his career if he bats up the order. But so long as India has three top order men as capable as Sachin, Sehwag and Gambhir, others will just have to wait.


Republished with permission from The Asian Age