Gautam Gambhir is known for coming up with a different point of view. Very few possess the quality to spark a debate with strong opinions like the former India opener. Gambhir’s recent comment after the India vs Pakistan Asia Cup Super 4 match in Colombo was proof of that. When Gambhir was asked to pick his Player of the Match in the post-match show on Star Sports after India registered their biggest ODI win (in terms of runs) against Pakistan – India won the match by 228 runs – Gambhir took Kuldeep Yadav‘s name and not Virat Kohli or KL Rahul’s. The final verdict, however, went in Kohli’s favour. He was adjudged the Player of the Match for his unbeaten 122-run knock. Naturally, Gambhir’s comments started getting more attention after the post-match presentation.
Kohli smashed multiple records on Monday. He became the fastest to reach 13000 ODI runs, took another step towards equalling Sachin Tendulkar’s (49) all-time record for ODI centuries, and equalled Hashim Amla’s record for scoring most consecutive ODI centuries (4) at a venue. It was mainly due to his unbeaten 233-run stand – India’s highest in Asia Cup – with KL Rahul, who too played a sublime knock of 111* that India were able to put their joint-highest ODI total of 356 against Pakistan.
On a surface like Colombo, where 250-260 is considered to be a good total, chasing 357 was always going to be a near-impossible task for any team. In that respect, it was safe to say that India batted Pakistan out of the contest. And Kohli, like many times in the past, was the architect of that. Add the heat factor and the quality of the Pakistan bowlers to the mix, Kohli’s innings at a strike rate of 147 was definitely worthy of a Player of the Match performance.
‘Can’t look beyond Kuldeep Yadav’: Gambhir picks his Player of the Match
Gambhir, however, thought otherwise. He picked left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav, who picked up his maiden five-wicket haul against Pakistan and gave them no chance to even think about chasing the target.
Gambhir said he “can’t look beyond Kuldeep” as the Player of the Match because he foxed Pakistan batters, who are generally good players of spin, both in the air and off the pitch.
“For me, it’s Kuldeep Yadav. Can’t look beyond him. I know Virat got a hundred KL (Rahul) got a hundred. Rohit (Sharma), Shubman Gill got fifties but on a wicket like this where it was seaming swinging, if someone get five wickets in 8 overs, especially against Pakistan batters, who play spin really well, is a game-changing moment. I can understand if it was Australia, South Africa or New Zealand because they don’t play spin that well. This just shows the quality of the bowler. He beat batters in the air and he beat batters off the wicket as well. Going into the World Cup, that is great for Indian cricket because now you have two attacking pacers upfront and Kuldeep… Three bowlers who can take wickets at any stage of the game,” Gambhir said.
After Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya removed two of Pakistan’s most dangerous batters Imam ul Haq and Babar Azam, Kuldeep Yadav ran through the Pakistan middle-order. When play resumed after a rain delay, Kuldeep picked up the wickets of Fakhar Zaman, Salman Agha, Shadab Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed and Faheem Ahsram to return with staggering figures of 5/25 in his 8 overs.
“If you take 5 wickets against a big team, you always remember that. Whenever I stop playing cricket, I will always remember that I had taken 5 wickets against Pakistan. This is a big thing because if you perform well against sides who play good spin, it motivates you a lot,” Kuldeep said after the match.