Gautam Gambhir is renowned for his distinctive viewpoints, a rare quality that allows him to ignite debates with strong opinions, as seen with the former India opener’s recent comments following the India vs. Pakistan Asia Cup Super 4 match in Colombo. In the post-match show on Star Sports, Gambhir was asked to name his Player of the Match after India’s resounding victory over Pakistan, where they won by a staggering 228-run margin, marking India’s largest ODI victory against Pakistan.
Surprisingly, Gambhir chose Kuldeep Yadav over Virat Kohli or KL Rahul. However, the official decision ultimately favored Kohli, who was awarded the Player of the Match for his unbeaten 122-run innings. As expected, Gambhir’s remarks gained significant attention during the post-match presentation.
Kohli achieved several milestones during the match, including becoming the fastest player to reach 13,000 ODI runs, inching closer to Sachin Tendulkar’s all-time record of 49 ODI centuries, and equaling Hashim Amla’s record for scoring the most consecutive ODI centuries (4) at a specific venue.
His remarkable partnership of 233 runs with KL Rahul, who contributed an outstanding 111*, played a pivotal role in India’s joint-highest ODI total of 356 against Pakistan, marking India’s highest partnership in Asia Cup history.
Considering the challenging conditions in Colombo, where a score of 250-260 is considered competitive, chasing 357 was indeed an arduous task for any team. In this context, India’s batting performance effectively eliminated Pakistan from contention, with Kohli, as he has done numerous times before, orchestrating this outcome. When you factor in the oppressive heat and the quality of the Pakistan bowlers, Kohli’s innings, played at a strike rate of 147, unquestionably warranted the Player of the Match recognition.
Nonetheless, Gambhir held a different perspective. He singled out left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav for the Player of the Match title, highlighting his exceptional performance in securing his maiden five-wicket haul against Pakistan. Gambhir emphasized that Kuldeep Yadav had completely outfoxed Pakistan’s batsmen, known for their proficiency against spin, both through the air and off the pitch.
“In my view, it’s Kuldeep Yadav. I can’t look beyond him. I know Virat scored a hundred, KL (Rahul) scored a hundred. Rohit (Sharma), Shubman Gill scored fifties. However, on a challenging wicket where there was seam and swing, for someone to capture five wickets in just 8 overs, particularly against Pakistan’s batsmen, who traditionally excel against spin, is a game-changing moment. This would be understandable if it were Australia, South Africa, or New Zealand because they struggle against spin.”
“This demonstrates the quality of the bowler. He outwitted the batsmen both in the air and off the pitch. Looking ahead to the World Cup, this is great for Indian cricket because now we have two aggressive pacers upfront and Kuldeep… three bowlers who can take wickets at any stage of the game,” Gambhir articulated.