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Gambhir looks to build on dream year

January 02, 2009 18:08 IST

India's Gautam Gambhir remains committed to the relaxed approach that helped him end a dream 2008 as an established Test opener.

The 27-year-old Delhi native struck three centuries in his last four Tests in a team that utilised a fresh approach to plunder back-to-back home series victories over Australia and England towards the end of the year.

The left-hander amassed 1,134 runs from just eight Tests in 2008, his sensational comeback ending the debate over his ability to carry his limited-over form into the Test arena.

"I have got 27 first class hundreds, so there was no doubt about my ability," Gambhir told Reuters. "It was only that I had to work on the mental aspect of my game --- I just had to relax."

Gambhir's talent was obvious but doubts remained over his temperament after he made just three fifties and a solitary hundred against Bangladesh in his first 14 Tests.

However, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's continual support helped him to play a vital role in India's triumph in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in 2007.

Gambhir then scored two centuries to emerge the highest run-scorer in a rare tri-series victory in Australia in March.

"That tour was the turning point," he said. "When you go to Australia and play well in those conditions and come back as the highest run-getter in the triangular series (it boosts confidence)."

The selectors rewarded him with a spot in the Test squad for the Sri Lanka tour in July/August as Delhi team mate Virender Sehwag's opening partner.

He accumulated 310 runs in the 2-1 series defeat.

"The way I played (spinners) Ajantha Mendis and Muralitharan in their own backyard gave me a lot of confidence.

"I was under a lot of pressure when I went to Sri Lanka. I always knew if I didn't do well then there will be talk I have got enough opportunities."

He then he hit a match-winning 104 in the second Test versus Australia in Mohali, his first Test hundred for four years.

He went on to score 206 in the drawn third Test as part of his overall tally of 463 runs.

"I got 67 in the first innings in Mohali and I was really disappointed. I was determined the next time I crossed 50, whatever happened, I have to get a 100.

"It was always a matter of getting one hundred."

However, his hopes for the player-of-the-series award were dashed when he was banned for the final Test in Nagpur after elbowing all-rounder Shane Watson, while going for a run in the third Test in Delhi. India still won to seal the series 2-0.

"The kind of form I was in, I now realise I should have been more responsible," he said.

Gambhir carried the form into the 1-0 home series win over England. He made 179 and 97 in the drawn second Test in Mohali after a crucial 66 in the first in Chennai guided India to a record fourth-innings run chase of 387.

Gambhir credited South African coach Gary Kirsten and mental conditioning expert Paddy Upton for his turnaround, as he cut out impulsive hook and pull shots early in his innings.

"I worked with Paddy on my mental aspect. I tried to focus on each and every ball rather than the result.

"Gary has been fantastic," he added. "He being an opener, a left-hander too and having played more than 100 Test matches, we discussed what my strengths were, what shots I can avoid."

India enjoy a break until March after the government scrapped the tour of Pakistan, which had been due to start this week.

"It was a fantastic year," he said. "It is very important we freshen up before the New Zealand tour and the World Twenty20."

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