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When the Kolkata Knight Riderspaid a whopping USD 2.4 million in the 2011 IPL Players Auction for Gautam Gambhir, several eyes popped out and eyebrows were raised. Gambhir was neither a ballistic giant like Chris Gayle nor did he have the Midas touch of MS Dhoni. Why would a team spend a fortune on a diminutive opening batsman with more skill than power and without much experience in a leadership role? Two years thence, the answer is here. KKR’s pocket-sized powerhouse has led them to something that they’ve been craving for since the last five years – the IPL crown.
Since his appointment as KKR’s captain, Gambhir has voiced his desire to bring joy to the City of Joy. And he has brought beaming smiles on the faces of the people of Kolkata by leading their team from the front. Despite being KKR’s highest run-getter with 590 runs in the tournament and marshalling his troops wisely, as a team man, Gambhir refuses to bask in self-glory.
After leading KKR to a win over the Chennai Super Kingsin the IPL 2012 final, Gambhir took time out to share his thoughts with iplt20.com. While being modest about his own contributions, Gambhir eulogised his team for showing great heart.
How would you describe this victory?
We wanted to prove this point to everyone that a captain is only as good as his team, and it’s the team that has done the job for us.
You were really pumped up after the win. Was it the ecstasy of the victory?
This is what you play cricket for. The entire odds were against us. We were playing CSK in their own backyard and they were the defending champions. From day one, I have been saying that KKR is not about one or two individuals, it’s about all of us sitting in the dugout and in the dressing room. We proved the point to the country that KKR is not about ‘me’, it’s about ‘we’. What was the talk in the dressing room after the first innings?
If someone can get 190 against our bowling attack, it obviously is a very good wicket to bat on as we have done a fantastic job throughout the tournament with the ball. We always thought we could chase that target. People were talking a lot about our middle order, saying it hasn’t clicked but they showed it when it mattered the most. After [Manvinder] Bisla, I think Manoj [Tiwary] is the actual hero, because I have always said that it’s not about the start, it’s how you finish; Manoj finished it perfectly for us. Was there anything that the team did differently this time around after coming close in the last season?
It’s never about coming close – you either win or lose. There are no greys, its either black or white; and that is how I have lived my life. In the last season, we didn’t play as well as we should have, and this year, we were determined to take the side all the way. I have always said that we are the side to look out for, and that is what we have shown today. Who would you dedicate this victory to?
Today, I was playing for L Balaji. He has been our unsung hero; [he] missed out in this crucial match due to injury, that too in front of his home crowd. I personally wanted to do this for him and he deserves all of this.
Does captaincy bring out the best in you?
I don’t know. I think it’s the successful team that makes a successful captain and not vice a versa.
Nothing can bring out emotions the way sport does. It brings out the child in a mature, wise man and causes even the toughest of eyes to shed tears. And once you attach yourself to a sport, it doesn’t matter at which level you’re competing, every single game is played to be won. The grand finale of IPL 2012 presented a classic example of the passion that sport accompanies.
After the Kolkata Knight Ridersromped through to their first IPL title triumph, iplt20.com caught up with their bowling mentor, Wasim Akram. The Sultan of Swing, Akram is widely regarded as the most complete fast bowler of his time. With over 900 international wickets and a World Cup triumph under his belt, there are not many achievements that the legend from Pakistan has missed out on in his cricketing career. Yet, after his KKR “boys” emerged victorious in a nail-biting final, Akram was a bundle of joy.
Ecstatic with the win, Akram likened being a part of the new IPL champions to winning the World Cup for Pakistan in 1992. Here are the snippets from his interview: How does it feel to end the five-year-long wait?
It was incredible. Credit goes to the captain and his team on the way they have fought throughout the tournament. My voice is gone and I am feeling the same when I did after winning the World Cup for Pakistan. It was worth the wait.
What’s the main difference between KKR of the past and the current team?
The leadership, the contribution from senior and the foreign players was the key. We’re a family, not a team. We supported each other through thick and thin, and that helped.
What do you have to say about your bunch of boys – the bowlers?
My bowlers are the best in the world and we can beat any team with this bowling attack. The variety and the wicket-taking ability are incredible. It’s good to be a part of this team.
A word on Sunil Narine.
He has been a revelation. Nobody could read him in this tournament and I don’t think anybody will do it in the next two years. It’s good for KKR.
Is this victory sweeter after all that the team has gone through?
It’s very sweet. It’s incredible especially for SRK [Shah Rukh Khan], Juhi [Chawla] and Jay [Mehta]; they’ve been waiting for it since a long time. Look at SRK, he is like a little kid, and so am I!