“Temperament is what separates the men from the boys…” This is one line that you might have heard on many occasions if you are an avid viewer of cricket matches. The field of sports is a tough nut to crack as it’s never just about how good you are. It has got a lot to do with how better are others than you are on that given day and at that given stage in that particular activity. India is a country where the population is estimated to be more than 1.3 billion. Well, in a country with so many people, if you have to be a regular member of the playing XI of the Indian cricket team, you gotta be damn good at everything. Not just good, it’s also about maintaining that consistency which is the real deal. It’s never easy to bring your A game on when you know that a failure or two here and there can lead you to warm the bench in the next set of games as a replacement is always available.
The form is temporary and the class is permanent. Yes, you might want to back your superstars and give them more than adequate opportunities to find their form since they have proven their game in the past. However, when the expectations are high at such a level, you really can’t fiddle around too much as the race is always against time. As far as Indian cricket is concerned, we have seen some of the best struggles with their form. Even the greatest, the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli have had their issues with the form. While some have always managed to have that one innings or one bowling spell that would help them retain their place in the squad, some have not been that lucky. Well, today’s piece is all about taking out a special moment to laud and appreciate those heroes who made stellar comebacks in the International team and proved that if self-belief blends with the right amount of hard work and luck, nothing is really impossible. These are the men who have quite literally proved that the might and power of ‘comeback’ is a lot greater than ‘setback’. Let’s take a look at the list below –
Sourav Ganguly – When we talk about comebacks in Indian cricket, this name has to be on the top and why not? From getting dropped from captaincy to eventually losing a place in the playing XI for more than a year, Ganguly had dealt with all of it. However, ever since he made his comeback in 2006, he never looked back as a player. He played some of his best innings in ODI as well as Test cricket after that and we are proud of him. It’s never easy for someone to tackle a lethal South African pace attack on those bouncy wickets when you are out of form and that too in Test cricket. However, the ‘Prince Of Kolkata’ proved he’s got nerves of steel. Well, the comeback story continued for him even after his retirement as in the year 2019, he became the President of the BCCI, the same body that had dropped him from the playing XI in 2005. Poetic justice anyone?
Yuvraj Singh – He has undoubtedly been one of the finest all-rounders for team India in limited-overs cricket. At a time when India needed that extra left-armer spinning option, Yuvraj proved to be very handy with both bats as well as bowl. He was at the apex of his career when he became the ‘Man of the tournament’ in the ICC World Cup 2011. However, destiny had other plans when he, unfortunately, got diagnosed with cancer. He had to be away from cricket for quite a long time and given the health complications he had, almost the majority had ruled out his chances of actually ever playing the game in general, let alone at an International level. But Yuvi proved to be the ideal ‘Punjab ka sher’ that he’s known for and guess what? He scored his best knock in ODI cricket a few years after his comeback. He played for many years till he decided to take retirement. An absolute champion.
Dinesh Karthik: He is another success story that deserves special mention in this list. Dinesh Karthik has been one name that’s been in and out of the Indian cricket team since the year 2024. Well, looking back, that’s almost two whole decades, ain’t it? But hey, guess what? The same Dinesh Karthik whose poor form would be the subject of a lot of memes is now a part of the T20 World Cup squad this year and is doing well. Things changed drastically after he became a part of RCB in 2021 and from there onwards, his journey towards an inspiring comeback has left one and all shocked.
Hardik Pandya: Hardik Pandya is one of the finest and most entertaining cricketers in the country. He started blooming and flourishing in Indian cricket actively in the year 2016-17 and ever since then, he had been a regular part of the Indian limited overs team. Be it ODI or T20 cricket, Pandya, for the longest time proved to be the ideal all-rounder that India was hunting for. However, injury issues plus a bit of time off for family kept him away from the squad for a long time. Add to that, Venkatesh Iyer’s impressive performances also indirectly delayed his comeback further. While many might have ruled Hardik out of the equation, he had other plans. Luck started to do wonders for him after the year 2022 when his IPL team Gujarat Titans won the trophy in its inaugural season itself and from there onwards, Hardik once again found his place in the playing XI. A giant of a comeback indeed.
Ashish Nehra: They say that the average fast bowler remains in his prime till about 32/33 years of age and not beyond that. But hey, seems like Ashish Nehra is a different breed altogether. His long-term relationship with injuries has been troubling since the time he made his debut under the leadership of Sourav Ganguly. Well, what if we tell you that Nehra actually played International cricket from the time of Ganguly till almost the end of Dhoni’s captaincy career? Yes, that’s true. After 2006-2007, Nehra’s injuries kept him away from the Indian team equation for a good four years. But hey, before the ICC World Cup 2011, Nehra made a grand comeback in the squad when no one really expected and since then, he never looked back. Hands down, he’s one of the finest pacers to have played the game for the country.
Gautam Gambhir: ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going…” Well, this certainly has to be the most perfect statement that we can use to describe Gautam Gambhir’s contribution to Indian cricket. He’s a big reason why India actually boasts of the ICC T20 World Cup trophy in 2007 and the ICC World Cup in 2011. While he scored a magnificent 75 against Pakistan in the 2007 final to help India snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, he scored another fine knock of 97 in 2011 final that helped India win the tournament that year. Till about 2012-13, Gambhir continued to be the first choice for Team India as an opener. However, after that, his dip in form slowly pushed him aside from all three squads. While he couldn’t do much in the ODI and T20 format after that, he made a grand comeback in Test cricket in the year 2014 and till about 2016, he featured in the Indian test team on and off before eventually announcing his retirement. A champion of cricketers indeed.
Anil Kumble: Anil Kumble is one of the most prolific cricketers to have played the game of cricket for team India and if we talk about Test cricket, in particular, our very own ‘Jumbo’ is actually in the list of top 5 wicket-takers in the world. Unlike the others on the list, he wasn’t dropped from the team due to form issues but because of a serious injury. A serious shoulder injury at the age of just 30 threatened to put brakes on his career. But guess what? Not only did he play for many years after that, he even became an even better bowler. A champion player indeed.
Rahul Dravid: Yes, we all know that whenever we talk about Rahul Dravid, the first thing that crosses our mind is how wonderfully he’s been consistent for team India in Test cricket since the beginning of his career. He made his debut in 1996 against England and continued to consistently feature in the International team till his retirement in 2013. However, for the longest time, he was out of the limited-overs team until he made a grand comeback in England. Not just ODI ladies and gentlemen, he also did his bit in the ODI games that he played before eventually deciding on his retirement. While many argue that he’s apparently ‘too slow’ for ODI cricket, not many realise that he’s actually scored more than 10K runs in ODI and that’s no rare feat.
Yes, it’s tough to consistently achieve success in sports as it’s not just about your efforts but also a lot of other factors are compiled with it. From age to fitness, everything becomes handy and is an important determinant of how long you will succeed in your career. But hey, when you got inspiring personalities like these, anything can happen. Remember folks. It’s ‘I M Possible’, not ‘Impossible’ and ‘comeback’ is always greater than ‘setback’.