Beleaguered Gambhir begins his battle for return

Chennai, Feb. 16 -- It's tough being Gautam Gambhir these days. The left-handed batsman was the biggest casualty of India's humiliating series loss to England in December, as he was axed for the first two Tests against Australia and now finds himself facing a steep road ahead of him. Gambhir will be the first admit, though, that he saw it coming. It's been three years and 26 Tests since the left-hander has made a century and his record in that period is just 1300 runs at an average of 31.91 with nine half centuries. Beginning Saturday, though, the opener will be hoping that his horror run has ended. Gambhir will lead the India 'A' side against Australia in the visitors' warm-up match, and he would need no better opposition to end his wretched form.

It was against the Aussies in the 2008 home series that Gambhir sealed his place in the India Test team, with a century and a double and went on to have a golden year-and-a-half.

Under the scanner

While he would have preferred to regain that form in the first Test, Gambhir will have to do all the running in the second-string team. On Friday, Gambhir was the first to take to the nets and was quite obviously the centre of attention. He looked little edgy with play-and-miss shots but also showed his trademark flicks and cover drives, before pleasant but unexpected rains shortened his session.

The fact that Gambhir was taking the game very seriously was evident, with him even skipping the media briefing and coach Lalchand Rajput filling in for him. "Gautam is very keen and very focused," said Rajput.

"It's just a matter of getting there and spending more time in the middle and utilising the opportunity. Once he spends more time, everything will fall in place," he added.

Meanwhile, Australia skipper Michael Clarke said he was surprised that Gambhir was dropped. "I expected him to be in the Test team. I think there are a few bowlers in our team who are happy he is not playing."

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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