On the field, he was an epitome of grit and passion. Off it, his plain-speak continued to set him apart. In an illustrious international career which spanned 13 years, Gautam Gambhir established himself as an indispensable member of the Indian cricket team, and remained central to India’s historic triumphs on the global stage.
The former Indian opener celebrates his 38th birthday today. Gambhir made his international debut in 2003 in an ODI against Bangladesh in Dhaka. It wasn’t a smooth start for the left-handed batsman, however, as he made sporadic appearances between 2003 and 2005. In 2007, a marginal dip in form cost him a place in the fifty-over world cup. Gambhir admitted that he didn’t pick up the cricket bat for two months following the exclusion from the squad.
However, 2007 was also the year which would go on to establish Gautam Gambhir as a regular in the Indian team. Gambhir made a comeback ahead of the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa, and played a match-winning innings of 75 against Pakistan in the final.
Following a century in the final of the Ranji Trophy against Uttar Pradesh in 2008, the doors for a comeback in the longest format of the game also opened for the Indian opener.
The period between 2008 and 2011 saw Gautam Gambhir at his best in all the formats of the game. In 2009, Gambhir played an 11-hour marathon innings in the Napier Test against New Zealand (136), which helped India save the match after being asked to follow-on. The innings is fondly remembered among the connoisseurs of Test cricket. In the same year, he also won the ICC Test Batsman of the Year award.
While patience with the bat was one of Gambhir’s virtue, his attitude on the field, and off it, has always been that of a street fighter. He didn’t shy from verbal spats with opposition players and famously took on the likes of Shahid Afridi and Kamran Akmal in clashes against Pakistan.
In 2011, Gautam Gambhir played a key role in India’s victory in the World Cup. Yet again, the Indian batsman shined in the final, scoring 97 against Sri Lanka to steer the team through to victory. The innings paved the path for India’s historic win as the side had lost two big wickets of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar in the early stages of the game.
In a conversation with India TV Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Rajat Sharma in Aap Ki Adalat, Gambhir admitted that he regrets not getting a century in the final.
Former cricketer and @BJP4India MP @GautamGambhir once said in #AapKiAdalat why he'll always regret not completing his century in the 2011 ICC World Cup final. Happy Birthday, Gautam Gambhir. pic.twitter.com/vDhL7AP9wG— Rajat Sharma (@RajatSharmaLive) October 14, 2019
In the Indian Premier League (IPL), Gambhir was signed up by Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals) in the inaugural season, but his most successful period in the league came with Kolkata Knight Riders. As the captain of KKR, Gambhir led the franchise to two IPL titles.
The Delhi batsman announced his retirement from all forms of cricket in December 2018 and entered the field of politics ahead of the General Elections in 2019.
Gambhir joined Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and won the election as a Member of Parliament from the East Delhi seat.
Throughout his cricket career, Gambhir represented India in 58 Tests, 147 ODIs and 37 T20Is. The left-handed batsman has scored 5238 runs with an average of 41 in the longest format of the game, 4154 runs in ODIs which include 9 centuries and 22 half-centuriess, and 932 runs in T20Is at a strike-rate of 119.