Cricketer turned politician Gautam Gambhir rings his 38th birthday on Monday. Born on October 14, 1981, the former cricketer was an elegant left-handed opener and one of the gritty batsmen ever witnessed by the game. The Delhi-born lad played as a top-order batsman and has proved his mettle in all the formats of the game. Mental toughness was Gambhir's biggest strength as he had a knack of performing at big stages. The southpaw was India's highest scorer in the finals of ICC World T20 2007 and Cricket World Cup 2011, playing a crucial role in guiding the Men in Blue to the title. In red-ball cricket, Gambhir was adjudged as the ICC Test Player of the Year in 2009.
Gambhir made his international debut in April 2003 and served India for over a decade in international cricket. In his illustrious career, the batsman featured in 147 ODIs- mustering 5238 runs with 11 centuries. In Tests, the former amassed 4154 runs in 58 matches which included nine tons. While in T20Is, the southpaw registered 932 runs in 37 outings. These numbers clearly reflect the volume of Gambhir's capability but what statistics cant define is his mental grit and a great appetite to score runs. Talking about Gambhir's accomplishments with the bat, let's look at five match-defining innings played by the graceful left-handed batsman.
167 Against New Zealand in Wellington
The southpaw was at his prime in the third Test of India's 2009 Tour of New Zealand. After managing just 23 runs in the first innings, the left-handed batsman made an impeccable comeback in the third innings of the match. Gambhir played an innings of high authority and brought up a sensational century. The opener gave India a solid start and guided the team to 434 in India's second innings. New Zealand, however, didn't put their guards down in the last innings and the match resulted in a draw.
150* Against Sri Lanka in Kolkata
The fourth ODI of Sri Lanka's 2009-10 Tour of India proved to be a feast for the Indian cricket fans as they witnessed not just one but two magnificent innings. Chasing a massive score of 316 runs, Openers Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar were dismissed early and the onus was on Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli. Gambhir as a senior took the charge and allowed a young Virat to settle down. In the latter part, the duo demolished the Lankans and scored their respective centuries. Kohli was dismissed at 107 but Gambhir didn't put a foot wrong and guided India over the line.
206 Against Australia in Delhi
Gambhir was at his peak in Test cricket in the 2008-09 season. The stylish left-handed batsman played many astonishing knocks in this period. However, his highest Test score came against the Aussies in the third clash of the 2009 Test series. In the first innings of the match, Gambhir looked in great form and was timing the deliveries to perfection. The opener went on play a marathon knock and slammed his maiden double ton in Tests. The batsman guided India to 613 runs in the first innings. However, Australia made a decent fightback and the clash ended in a draw.
97 Against Sri Lanka in Mumbai
Gautam Gambhir has 11 ODI centuries to his name. However, this innings of 97 is regarded as the best of his career. In the all-important final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, Gambhir came in to bat after Sehwag was dismissed for a second-ball duck. The pressure got increased when Sachin Tendulkar departed too. Gambhir, however, kept his calm and steadied the ship with Virat Kohli. The duo stitched a great partnership and brought India back to the contest. After Kohli's departure, the batsman joined forces with MS Dhoni and the pair gave India more control. The southpaw was dismissed at 97 but doesn't have any regrets as India eventually won the match by six wickets and lifted the title.
75 Against Pakistan in Johannesburg
An Indo-Pak clash with the inaugural World T20 title in stakes. A player can't face a bigger pressure than this game. Batting first, India got off to a flier but lost momentum in the middle. Gambhir was holding one end while wickets kept falling at another. The opening batsman scored a fantastic half-century and guided the Men in Blue to 157 in the first innings. The total proved to be just enough and India won the match by 5 runs and became the first T-20I champions.
Along with a stupendous record at the international level, Gambhir starred in the Indian Premier League too. The latter was the mainstay of the Kolkata Knight Rider's batting line up and also guided the side to the title twice. In 2018, the southpaw brought curtains to his illustrious career. After toiling the bowlers in the cricket field, Gambhir chose to enter politics and is currently serving as BJP's MP from East Delhi.