Dhoni bats for struggling Gambhir

Updated: 11 November 2010 08:45 IST

Under-fire Indian opener Gautam Gambhir earned firm backing from skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni ahead of the second Test against New Zealand.

Dhoni bats for struggling Gambhir

Hyderabad:

Under-fire Indian opener Gautam Gambhir earned firm backing from skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni ahead of the second Test against New Zealand.

The left-hander has struggled with the bat of late, aggregating a mere 86 runs from his last 10 Test innings.

Gambhir, 29, missed India's Test against Australia in Bangalore last month with a knee injury and his replacement Murali Vijay scored a solid 139, putting pressure on his more experienced team-mate to perform.

"Players do go out of form," Dhoni told reporters at a press conference on Thursday before the Test starts on Friday.

"It happens to everyone in cricket. Gambhir has set the benchmark so high that expectations of him have grown. With Gambhir, it is more about the pressure to perform than the fear of failure.

"The kind of innings he has played in the past shows how good a cricketer he is. He is returning from an injury and is working hard on his fitness. I am sure he will come good with the bat sooner than later."

Gambhir, with 2,846 runs from 34 Tests at an average of nearly 50, has been pivotal in India's rise to the top of Test rankings.

He was named International Cricket Council Test Player of the Year in 2009 for a series of good starts in tandem with opening partner Virender Sehwag.

Gambhir's 11-hour, second-innings knock of 137 against New Zealand in Napier last year helped India salvage a hard-fought draw.

Dhoni said Gambhir was a proven performer and Vijay would have to wait for his chance to make it back to the squad.

"Gambhir is our best bet for the opener's slot. Vijay has done well whenever he has been given the chance. But I think he will have to wait his turn."

Vijay, 26, has scored 509 runs from the eight Tests he has played so far at an average of 42.41.

Dhoni also supported Suresh Raina, who cut a sorry figure in the drawn first Test in Ahmedabad, scoring three and a duck.

"You cannot form an opinion on a player based on one match," Dhoni said. "We must give everyone a chance.

"It is easy to sit outside and make comments. But one must step into the player's shoes to understand how tough it is to go out and perform each time."

Dhoni hoped the wicket at the new Rajiv Gandhi Stadium -- hosting its first Test -- would give the bowlers a fair chance after a placid one in Ahmedabad made the draw all but inevitable.

Hyderabad has hosted three Tests before, all against New Zealand, but at the older Lal Bahadur Stadium.

"We have played quite a few one-day games on this wicket. It is not difficult to judge this wicket. It is flat but will offer a bit of bounce which will allow the batsman to play his shots."

New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori said the team was looking to sustain the momentum gained in Ahmedabad.

"We did well as a team in Ahmedabad," he said. "But that does not count much now. It is always a big challenge to take 20 wickets in India where the wicket suits the batsman.

"The wicket is reasonably flat here but hopefully it will have more pace and assist the bowlers."

The third and final Test will be played in Nagpur from November 20-24 followed by five one-day internationals from November 28.

Topics : Cricket MS Dhoni Gautam Gambhir
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