Melbourne: Gautam Gambhir knows the value of hundreds. Probably more than your average batsman. He had to fight through an ordinary start to his career, was dropped and forgotten, had to go back to domestic cricket when at times he felt like quitting the game altogether, and when he came back in 2008, all the hard work he put in would yield only half-centuries.
The comeback began in the series of Murali and Mendis in Sri Lanka. Gambhir was India's second-best batsman on the tour but had only three half-centuries to show. Then another fifty followed, against Australia. Gambhir was anxious; he worried he wouldn't be taken seriously as a batsman if he didn't score centuries when in good form, and without hundreds what buffer would he have when form paled? As he walked back after one of those half-fulfilling innings, he heard people say he was good only for fifties.
Of course, once he crossed the line once, Gambhir crossed it many times: eight times in 10 Tests. Two of those came in New Zealand - among them a second-innings marathon for 643 minutes to save a Test. The world respected him now; bowlers feared him, especially with Virender Sehwag at the other end; but bigger tests remained: those of seaming conditions and top-quality bowling in South Africa and England.