We can do much better: Gambhir

Kolkata Knight Riders captain talks IPL, straddling different formats and gives his take on being a big match player

By Akshay Manwani
Kolkata 28 April 2012
In many ways, Gautam Gambhir is the link between cricket’s three different formats. Having established himself as one-half of India’s opening pair in Test cricket, Gambhir has earned plaudits for his tenacity and grit for that role. At the same time, he has emerged as India’s leading run-getter in Twenty20 Internationals, a format which requires an entirely different approach to Test cricket’s resolute and unrelenting character. Between those two formats, he has also established himself as one of the many genuine match-winners in the Indian ODI team. His innings of 97 in the 2011 ICC World Cup final vindicated his ability to play under pressure while highlighting his immaculate pedigree across all formats of the game.

Gambhir is also in charge of the Kolkata Knight Riders’ fortunes for the second year running. In his very first season as captain, he took KKR past the league stage for the first time in four years. This year, his team is sitting pretty in second place at the halfway mark in the tournament, with Gambhir himself leading from the front in a couple of matches.

With that perspective, caught up with the KKR captain to talk about his team, his ability to excel in all formats of the game and whether the Kolkata franchise can go the distance in IPL 2012.

Thank you for talking to The rain seems to be following you, but you would be happy with the way the season has gone so far?

It’s been up and down. We’ve not played consistently, but sometimes we’ve played some very good cricket. We’ve still got eight more games, and hopefully, we can peak at the right time. This is the time to peak. We can play much better cricket than what we have played until now.

You faced that two-run defeat against Kings XI Punjab on April 15. You were very disappointed following that game because you believed your side should have won that game. Is it tough being captain on such days?

There have been days where we have beaten teams convincingly as well. When you see the highs you have to see the lows as well. That is what captaincy is all about. As a cricketer, and as a professional sportsperson, you need to be able to move on; pick yourself up the next day, think afresh and start looking forward. That is what sports is all about.

We know that you always prefer talking about the team instead of the individual, but at what stage must a captain take a tough call on dropping a potential match-winner who is not performing?

To be honest, whenever we pick the playing XI, we pick them thinking they are going to do the job for us. In that scenario, if we think that the individual can win us games, we back him to the hilt. That is what I have always done. This is what team sport is all about. We need to back each other.

Iqbal Abdulla was the emerging player of the tournament last year. This year Sunil Narine and Shakib Al Hasan have emerged as KKR’s frontline spinners. How are you handling young Iqbal in this scenario?

He needs to wait. Like I said, we try and pick the best playing XI who can win the game for us. In that case, some people will be disappointed and some people will miss out. They just need to keep working hard and wait for their opportunity. And when they get their opportunity, they should look to capitalize. Iqbal is a quality guy. It’s not that he is not bowling well; he is bowling brilliantly. But we feel that whatever side we pick, [it] will do the job for us.

Just watching you at the practice sessions – you spend a lot of quality time with the younger, less experienced members of your team like Chirag Jani, Debabrata Das, etc. What is it that you are looking to impart to these players during the tournament? Is it more about developing their cricketing skills or giving them the confidence that they belong here?

Both, to be honest. If you can share experiences where you feel they are lacking or you can share experiences by what you’ve gained by playing international cricket, there is nothing wrong in it. It can only help them in becoming better players. That gives me much more happiness than just keeping things to myself or not sharing my experiences. If I feel that someone like Das or Chirag can take my advice and turn out to be a better cricketer in the future, I would be a happier person.

Jacques Kallis is someone who has achieved a lot in his cricketing career. You share the dressing room with him as part of the KKR setup. Have you exchanged notes with him on improving as a batsman?

Not really. We’re two different individuals. We have our different preparations. Obviously, having him in the dressing room is always a great bonus. But like I said, I don’t like to talk about individuals. It’s a team sport. When I look around the dressing room, I see a lot of quality players; not only Jacques, but a lot of other quality players and potential match-winners [as well]. It makes me feel good as a captain.

You are the leading run-getter for India in Twenty20 Internationals and you are among the leading run-getters in IPL competitions overall. On the other hand, we’ve seen you play some remarkable Test innings – in Napier, in Cape Town – where you’ve defied bowling attacks for hours together. How difficult is it mentally bridging these two entirely different formats of the game?

You just need to change your mindset. And when you are playing professional sport, you need to change it very quickly. In today’s time, you play three formats. Earlier, you used to play only two formats. So now you have to change your mindset very quickly. But my basics remain the same. Your just cannot change the technical bit because you are changing formats. That remains the same. It’s only the mindset that changes. You need to be more attacking, improvise more. If you have a strong base, definitely you will do well in all three formats of the game.

Just taking it forward from those two innings that you played in Napier and Cape Town where you helped India draw crucial Test matches. You also were the highest scorer for India in the ICC T20 World Cup final in 2007, while in 2011 your 97 in the ICC World Cup final played a crucial role in securing the match for India. Would it, therefore, be fair to say that Gautam Gambhir is a big match player?

I don’t know. I’ve heard that a lot from people that I’m a big match player. But I always feel that every match is a big match. It’s just the media that makes it bigger. For a player, whenever he walks out on to the field, whether he is playing against Bangladesh or he is playing against Australia or playing against any other opposition, representing your country in any game is as big as any World Cup final. That’s how I approach cricket. For me, any game is as big as any other game. As a batsman, it takes one ball to get you out. So, I respect every opposition.

Finally, can KKR fans expect to see Gautam Gambhir lifting the IPL trophy in a month from now in Chennai on the night of May 27?

I don’t predict things. I haven’t predicted things in the past. For me, it is about the process and about what we want to do tomorrow. That is all that matters to me. There are certain things, which are not in your hands. The only thing that is there in your hand is to go out there, play to the best of your ability and then see where the results go. Hopefully, we can play to our potential, and if we play to our potential, we are certainly the side to look out for in this tournament from now on.
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