It has been 11 years since India won their second One-Day International World Cup championship in 2011. MS Dhoni, the then skipper of India, was named player of the match in the finals after scoring a critical 91* runs. In a match when MS Dhoni took all the attention with a winning six off the bowling of Nuwan Kulasekara, it was Gautam Gambhir who laid the groundwork with unflinching innings of 97 runs that were emblematic of the batter’s iron grit and attitude.
Virender Sehwag (0 off 2 balls) and Sachin Tendulkar (18 off 14 balls) were sent back to the pavilion as the home team was reeling at 31/2 in only 6.1 overs. However, it had no effect on the left-handed batsman, who went on to form a solid relationship with captain MS Dhoni. The squad’s then-head coach, Gary Kirsten referred to Gambhir as ‘the rock’ during the success, according to Paddy Upton, who was engaged with the team as a strength and mental conditioning coach during the triumph 11 years ago.
Gautam Gambhir was the rock and the backbone of the Indian batting order, says Paddy Upton
“The rock,’ as Gary Kirsten affectionately dubbed Gambhir, and it was his nickname among the squad as well. Because he was the rock, the foundation, and the backbone of that Indian batting order. He allowed Sehwag to play the incredible game that he played. Sachin was permitted to go in and express himself. He enabled Yuvraj to come in with that wonderful swing of his and just be so devastating in the manner he did. He set things up for Dhoni to be able to come in and close things off,” Upton was reported by The Times of India as saying.
“As a result, Gambhir ‘the rock’ was instrumental in providing the rock, the foundation, and the roots of his batting performance on several occasions. There’s no better example than the 97 runs he scored in the World Cup final in Mumbai. Because it was not as stunning as Dhoni’s 91*, it is not much discussed. He was not the one who hit the six over long-on,” Upton added.
When it comes to one-day international cricket, Gambhir’s figures are impressive. He played 147 matches, in which he made 5238 runs at an average of over 40. In the 50-over format, he also had 34 fifties and 11 centuries to his credit.