To lead is to create leaders: Gambhir

KKR captain speaks of his leadership style and the team’s new buys for Pepsi IPL 2014

Mumbai 26 March 2014
A good leader strives to build a team of individuals who will readily line up in front of a raging truck for him. And every team longs for a leader who would take the first position in that line. How one follows can tell a great deal about how he would lead.

Here’s a little story. Before he was about to make his captaincy debut for India, in the 2010 home ODI series against New Zealand, Gautam Gambhir was asked if he would continue to field at the perilous forward short-leg position – at which he took many a blow to his knees – even when he is the captain. Gambhir smiled and said, “Yes, I will”. Sure enough, he did. Not only for India but also for his IPL franchise, Kolkata Knight Riders. It were small yet significant things like this that should be credited for KKR’s surge to the IPL title in 2012. Gambhir led by an example and his team followed.

Now, as he prepares to lead them in another season of IPL, Gambhir is pretty pleased with the squad that KKR have formed in the 2014 Player Auction.

In an interview with, the KKR captain spoke about the new buys of the franchise and gave an insight into his leadership methods.

What is your overall take on the players procured by KKR in the auction?

I’m very happy with what we have got. I believe that when you select a player, you do it knowing that he can win you matches. Therefore, I believe that all 21 players we have picked are match-winners. I did seek a few players in particular and have got most of them. I would not like to name them here but overall I am quite pleased with the squad we have.

In the last couple of years we have seen that slow bowling has been KKR’s strength. Was it an agenda to get some genuine quickies in Morne Morkel, Pat Cummins and Umesh Yadav?

We have had quality pacers like Brett Lee, Marchant de Lange, James Pattinson and Ryan McLaren in our ranks in the past. Since we play most of our matches at Eden Gardens, where the wicket is slow and low, we generally field a spin-heavy attack. That must have given people the perception that we rely a bit too much on the slower bowlers.

Was the strengthening of pace department done also keeping in mind that IPL may move overseas this year?

I am a firm believer that it’s the bowlers who win you matches, no matter the format. As a captain, I am a big fan of having raw pace at my disposal because when you are quick through the air, the surface becomes irrelevant. Yes, at the back of my mind, I was thinking on the lines of having an appropriate pace attack in case the tournament moves to South Africa. However, now that we are playing in the UAE and India, we still have all bases covered.

Wrist spinners are often at the receiving end in T20 cricket. What was the reason behind investing so much on Piyush Chawla?

Wrist spinners are wicket-takers and we thought it would be good to have one. Also, until the last year we had young spinners like Sarabjeet Ladda and Iqbal Abdullah but this time we wanted a more experienced hand. Besides, Piyush can also give us some handy runs down the order.

Do you reckon that the 2014 auction has created a sort of level playing field for all franchises?

That’s right. This auction seems to have worked for every franchise, whether they wished to retain the core group of players – like MI and CSK did – or decided to form a team from the scratch, like DD. There was an equal opportunity for all teams to pick players of their choice.

How important was it for you to get Yuvraj Singh in your team? His bid price went up by Rs. 4 crore after KKR started bidding for him.

Yuvi is a match-winner, a once in a lifetime player. We wanted him badly as he could have been a real game-changer for us. I met him after the auction and told him he should thank KKR for those extra 4 crore he got after aggressive bidding from us. But yes, with Yuvraj in their ranks joining the likes of Virat Kohli – who has been batting like a dream –, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers, RCB are now a real batting powerhouse

Now let’s talk about your captaincy. We have seen you invest a lot of time in the nets with youngsters during IPL. Is it your way of giving something back to the game?

I believe that being a leader off the field is as important as being a captain on it. Off the field leadership includes aligning a player to the ideology of the team, helping him ease into the group and dispel any doubts he might have by having a heart-to-heart chat with the player. This is what I try to do while speaking with youngsters during practice sessions. Besides, I have had a career filled with highs and lows and I believe I can help the younger players by sharing my experiences with them. If he is going through a tough situation that I have faced earlier, it might help him to know how I dealt with it.

You always emphasize on team over individuals but there is no denying of the fact that individuals make the team. How important is defining roles so the team works in cohesion?

It is very important, especially so in a tournament like the IPL where a dressing room consists of people from varied cricketing cultures. As a player it becomes easier for you to contribute when you know exactly what the team expects from you. I am a great believer in team cultures and I think defining the specific roles provides a good base for having a positive team environment. At KKR we stress on individual leadership and encourage players to not only lead themselves but also small groups within the team. I believe that every system is judged by the legacy of the leaders it creates.

You are not very good in hiding your emotions on the field. Is that something you want to change or will we always see an expressive Gautam on the field?

Yes, I tend to be pretty candid about my feelings both on and off the field. That’s how I have always lived my life – I say things like I see them and feel about them. The second thing is, I want to win at all costs and that, at times, leads to heated situations on the field. My methods of leading a team are pretty straightforward. Rather than beating about the bush, I like to explicitly state exactly what I expect from my players. For instance, while leading Delhi in this year’s Ranji Trophy, I made it very clear to the batsmen that since we were playing most matches on green-tops, the onus would be on us to lay platforms for the bowlers. I don’t look for individual goals or brilliance but rather try to create a situation where the team benefits from every individual’s actions.
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