Gautam Gambhir stands as one of India’s premier opening batsmen. Over nearly a decade, the former Indian opener made substantial contributions to his nation, consistently holding a pivotal role within the team.
Gambhir played a central part in India’s victorious campaigns at the T20 World Cup and the ODI World Cup, securing the team’s coveted number one Test ranking as well. In both World Cup finals, Gambhir was the top run-scorer, and in 2009, he attained the number one Test batsman ranking. At the pinnacle of his career, Gautam Gambhir was unequivocally one of the finest opening batsmen across all formats.
Throughout his illustrious career, Gambhir faced some of the most accomplished fast bowlers in cricket history, including Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Lasith Malinga, Dale Steyn, and Shaun Pollock, among others. He also went up against spin maestros like Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne, Saqlain Mushtaq, and Graeme Swann. In addition, he showcased his skills in contests against Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, and Ravichandran Ashwin during his Indian Premier League (IPL) tenure.
Gautam Gambhir has lauded Saqlain Mushtaq as the supreme off-spinner:
Recently, Gautam Gambhir was asked to pick the preeminent off-spinner, and he selected the former Pakistani spinner Saqlain Mushtaq over Muralitharan, Ashwin, Ajmal, and others. Speaking on Star Sports, Gautam Gambhir, a master at playing spin, disclosed that he had faced Saqlain Mushtaq once during practice when the latter was not actively playing, and it was a formidable challenge.
“In my opinion, Saqlain Mushtaq stood above all as an off-spinner. I’ve had encounters with Muralitharan, Saqlain Ajmal, Harbhajan Singh, and Ashwin as well. However, when Saqlain Mushtaq was at his peak, he was in a league of his own. The manner in which he delivered the ball was truly extraordinary. I believe there was no better off-spinner in world cricket during his prime,” asserted Gautam Gambhir.
“In our era, how many off-spinners could effectively bowl in the last 10 overs? People often praised my ability to handle spin, but when I faced Saqlain Mushtaq in England, even though he was somewhat out of shape at the time, the way he bowled, I don’t think anyone in world cricket could match him,” he added.
Saqlain Mushtaq represented Pakistan in 49 Test matches and 169 ODIs, leaving an indelible mark on the game. He captured 208 Test wickets and 288 in ODIs.