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Gautam Gambhir, almost as a norm, splits his batting practice into two halves. First while facing the main bowlers he plays the ball on its merit and later, while taking throwdowns, he pays extra attention to that one stroke that he thinks needs more attention. Most times, between these sessions, he has lengthy discussions with coach Duncan Fletcher.
Before the third One-day International in New Delhi, the second-half of Gambhir's batting stint was dedicated to playing the off-drive. Fielding coach Trevor Penney and the Indian team's video analyst rolled their arms over as Gambhir worked on getting the 'fluency of old' in his drives. His preparation was meticulous but as it happens with out-of-form batsmen he couldn't kick out the match-day tentativeness. Once again, the 'fluency of old' was conspicuous by its absence when he opened the India innings at Kotla on Sunday.
Gambhir did try to see off the early spells but Pakistan's new-ball bowlers made life difficult for him. All through the series, the seven-foot plus Mohd Irfan's bounce had made Gambhir reluctant to come forward and drive with intent. With Irfan possessing a deadly short ball, Gambhir, on most occasions, has waited in the crease. This defensive tactic has helped him to handle the bounce effectively but not the fuller ball. So when dot balls increase, the left-hander has driven at the fuller balls without quite reaching for the ball. The results have been disastrous: the authoritative drives off have been replaced by iffy pushes.
At Chennai, he attempted to drive and was bowled by Irfan because he was too late on the stroke. He made eight off 17 balls at Chepauk, his only boundary came when he edged past second slip while trying to cut a ball when there wasn't enough width on offer.