Former Indian opener Gautam Gambhir enjoyed to the hilt as England’s tailenders resisted Australia’s bowlers in fading light on Sunday to clinch a draw on a dramatic final day of the fourth Ashes Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
In his column for the Times of India, Gambhir wrote, “There were some dramatic scenes at the end of the Sydney Test. Australia hunting for England; England clinging on to dear life. In the closing moments, Australian captain Pat Cummins brought in Steve Smith to bowl his leg-spinners to England batsmen. The drama, the adrenaline, the tension all rolling well with each other to produce some good television time for all of us sitting on the couch and watching.”
But Gambhir rued the fact that the standard of Test cricket is falling around the world. “The marketing guys would like us to believe that Test cricket is alive and kicking. But sadly, despite those powerful scenes, Test cricket the world over is not producing the requisite standards. England are struggling, so are Sri Lanka, Pakistan and West Indies. I am sorry, but beyond a point you cannot live on history or legacy. West Indies WAS a great side, England WAS a top side in patches, Pakistan and Sri Lanka USED to produce fantastic cricket.
Sport is played in present, history and nostalgia can only tickle the romance of the whole scene. At present only India, Australia and New Zealand are producing some decent standards. That is why it was surprising to see India go down to an ordinary South African team. I am not too excited about the win in Centurion. If anything, India should have dominated this series. Therefore the loss in Johannesburg should really hurt the group,” Gambhir added.
Gambhir hoped that India won’t drop Hanuma Vihari for the third Test against South Africa as Virat Kohli returns to lead the side. “As they go into the final Test, India need to do all the running around. South Africa will be happy with a draw in the third Test and would have won a lottery if they beat India. Virat Kohli is all set to return to the team. Once again, I will not win many fans for saying this but I’d leave out Ajinkya Rahane to accommodate the India captain. I am more in favour of Hanuma Vihari to continue in the middle-order. Even in the past, Vihari has been conveniently left out to accommodate senior batsmen. I am not sure this is how a young talent should be looked after. I have nothing against Rahane, he is a nice guy with a good heart and showed some form too in the last game. But if I had anything to do with Indian cricket, I’d be worried for Vihari,” Gambhir opined.
Gambhir hoped that in the place of the injured Mohammad Siraj, India opt for Umesh Yadav and not for Ishant Sharma. “The other forced change will be if Mohammad Siraj is still not fit. There will be a temptation to play the experienced Ishant Sharma in his place. He is the guy who has played over 100 Tests for the country and has captured in excess of 300 Test wickets. With due respect to Ishant though, I’d be more inclined to play Umesh Yadav. For me, he is a like for like replacement for Siraj. Both have similar attacking style of bowling and are skiddy customers. Let’s see if the Indian think tank agrees with me,” Gambhir wrote.
Cheteshwar Pujara shared a 111-run third wicket partnership with Rahane to ensure that South Africa were set a challenging target in the second Test at the Wanderers. Pujara and Rahane added 66 in the first hour on Day 3 before conditions became more difficult. India’s second innings total of 266 owed much to Pujara and Rahane, who shared the biggest partnership of the 2nd Test. “A lot is being said and written about how Cheteshwar Pujara batted in the second innings at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. It was indeed a revelation. Everyone wants to know why can’t he bat like this more often? I am also grappling for an answer to that one. Is he feeling more secure with the new coach Rahul Dravid around? Does he perform at his best when he has his back to the wall? I am not sure what is it. But I hope Pujara doesn’t alter his plans,” Gambhir signed off.