When Gautam Gambhir was posed with the task of selecting the Player of the Match, he opted for a different perspective, choosing not to nominate Virat Kohli or KL Rahul. Instead, he singled out a bowler.

Gautam Gambhir is renowned for his unconventional viewpoints, possessing the ability to ignite spirited debates with his strong opinions, a trait that he showcased once again following the India vs. Pakistan Asia Cup Super 4 match in Colombo. During the post-match analysis on Star Sports, when asked to name his Player of the Match after India’s emphatic ODI victory over Pakistan, where they won by a colossal margin of 228 runs, Gambhir unexpectedly mentioned Kuldeep Yadav’s name, diverging from the popular choices of Virat Kohli or KL Rahul. In the end, the official award indeed went to Kohli for his exceptional unbeaten 122-run innings. Consequently, Gambhir’s comments gained increased attention after the post-match presentation.

Virat Kohli achieved several remarkable feats during the match. He became the quickest player to reach 13,000 ODI runs, took significant strides towards equalling Sachin Tendulkar’s all-time record of 49 ODI centuries, and matched Hashim Amla’s record for the most consecutive ODI centuries (4) at a single venue. The highlight of the game was the unbeaten 233-run partnership between Kohli and KL Rahul, propelling India to their joint-highest ODI total of 356 against Pakistan.

Given the challenging conditions in Colombo, where a total of 250-260 is generally considered competitive, chasing 357 was an arduous task for any team. In this context, India’s batting performance effectively removed Pakistan from contention, with Kohli, as he has done many times before, being the driving force behind it. His innings, characterized by a strike rate of 147, unquestionably warranted the Player of the Match accolade, particularly considering the adverse factors such as the heat and the quality of Pakistan’s bowling attack.

Nevertheless, Gambhir had a differing viewpoint. He selected left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav as the Player of the Match, highlighting Yadav’s pivotal role in the game as he secured his first five-wicket haul against Pakistan and effectively thwarted their chase.

Gambhir justified his choice by explaining that he couldn’t look beyond Kuldeep because the spinner bewildered Pakistan’s batsmen, who are traditionally adept at playing spin, both through the air and off the pitch.

“For me, it’s Kuldeep Yadav. Can’t look beyond him. I know Virat got a hundred, KL (Rahul) got a hundred. Rohit (Sharma), Shubman Gill got fifties, but on a wicket like this where it was seaming and swinging, if someone takes five wickets in 8 overs, especially against Pakistan, who typically excel against spin, it’s a game-changing moment. I could understand if it was against Australia, South Africa, or New Zealand, as they don’t handle spin that well. This just underscores the bowler’s quality. He deceived the batsmen in the air and off the pitch as well. With the World Cup approaching, this is a significant development for Indian cricket because now we have two aggressive pacers upfront and Kuldeep… Three bowlers who can take wickets at any stage of the game,” Gambhir remarked.

Following early dismissals by Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya of two of Pakistan’s most dangerous batsmen, Imam ul Haq and Babar Azam, Kuldeep Yadav proceeded to dismantle Pakistan’s middle-order. When play resumed after a rain delay, Kuldeep accounted for the wickets of Fakhar Zaman, Salman Agha, Shadab Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, and Faheem Ashraf, concluding with remarkable figures of 5/25 in his 8 overs.

Reflecting on his performance after the match, Kuldeep expressed the significance of taking five wickets against a formidable team, particularly one known for their proficiency against spin. He emphasized how this accomplishment would serve as a motivating memory for him throughout his cricketing career.

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