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The No.1 tag sits pretty on him. A mind-boggling 1,295 runs at 85.56 and five consecutive Test centuries in the past one year are a testimony to his consistency. And with the series as well as the team's top ranking at stake following the disastrous loss at Nagpur, India are once again banking on him to deliver.

The first Test against South Africa was a rare failure,with the left-hander managing just 13 runs in two innings. However, skipper MS Dhoni isn't too concerned and says it can happen to the best of batsmen. "Gautam has stamped his authority on world cricket. He has worked his way to the top. We expect him to score every time (he bats), but that is not possible. Sometimes you get two great deliveries and your Test match is over. That was what happened in the first Test," he said.

The No.3 option

And while he is one half of India's most successful opening pair, with Rahul Dravid unavailable and another specialist opener like Murali Vijay in the side, there are suggestions that Gambhir should play at No.3 to help India counter Paul Harris's left-arm spin.

"It's an idea worth mulling over, especially taking into consideration the fact that he is an excellent player of spin bowling," says National selector Raja Venkat. "But it has its side effects. Gambhir going down the order will mean tinkering with the world's best opening combination. Also, a left-right combination at the top always gives you an advantage. He has just failed in one Test match, and I don't think that the team management will change the opening combination," Venkat told The Sunday Express.

Meanwhile, the South Africans see the Delhi left-hander as a big hurdle, but Smith insists that "Gambhir has to prove himself playing around the world. That is his real test."

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