When all else fails, point to your achievements. Sourav Ganguly had done it at the peak of his troubles with Greg Chappell. Harbhajan Singh did it when he had forgotten how to take wickets. And now Gautam Gambhir, he of the ungainly off-side jab, has said that he and Virender Sehwag form the best opening pair in the country.
It’s only when bat and ball fail to talk for them that players have to talk for themselves. And the talk doesn’t stand an instant’s scrutiny. “We still average 53 as an opening pair, which I think is one of the best when it comes to opening the batting in world cricket,” Gambhir said today.
“There are not many opening pairs who have played for such a long time and have an average of 53 per innings. And if 53 is not good enough, I don't know what is good enough.”
“As an opening pair, you average 50 per inning and if you are giving 50 runs start in every innings, you can’t do more and if people talk about not contributing, I will suggest them to look at the stats.”
So let’s look at the stats.
TWO POOR YEARS
Granted there have been few combinations as successful as the Delhi duo. But they’ve had two ordinary years in which their individual forms have dwindled and, by extension, their partnership has lost its effectiveness, creating a gaping void at the top of the order.
Gambhir and Sehwag last produced a hundred-run partnership way back in the Centurion Test of 2011. Since then, in 20 innings, they’ve added just 605 runs at an average of 28.80. The number Gambhir quotes is largely due to their good work the previous two years.
More damning has been their failure against top-class opposition. In Australia, they added 125 runs in eight innings with a best effort of 26. Earlier in Edgbaston, their only outing together in England, they’d added 8 and 3.
POOR INDIVIDUAL FORM
Between 2008 and 2011, Gambhir set out on a record-breaking scoring spree in Tests. In 11 consecutive Tests, he passed fifty or more and made hundreds in five consecutive Tests.
His Bradmanesque form coupled with Sehwag’s brutal effectiveness provided India the nitro booster starts that propelled India to the No. 1 rank in Tests.
Sehwag thrives when there’s a stable partner with him at the other end. Think of all the big innings he’s played and then think of the batsmen who were with him – Aakash Chopra, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and then Gambhir. But with Gambhir’s diminishing form, Sehwag hasn’t experienced that stability.
With his fitness problems and the purported tiffs with captain MS Dhoni, Sehwag hasn’t seemed to be in a happy mental space for a while. But he hasn’t helped his case either by throwing away his wicket with reckless strokes.
Gambhir hasn’t made a Test hundred since January 2010 – that’s 22 Test matches. Sehwag hasn’t had one since November 2010 – or 16 Tests. Gambhir’s right – it’s not always about scoring hundreds. But hundreds sure speak louder than words.
It’s great to see Gambhir and Sehwag head to the Ranji Trophy to prepare for the long home season ahead. Gambhir has gone back to his childhood coach to work on his technical flaws.
Gambhir’s right when he says he and Sehwag form India’s best opening combination. They've been India's best by a mile. The question is do they have the hunger to remain there?