Gautam Gambhir on Dhoni, Napier Test & A Career with Insecurities
“There are a lot of people who haven’t understood me, and that’s fine. I had decided to live on certain principles and certain values and I've stuck to them.”
13 years of international cricket and Gautam Gambhir hung up his boots in December 2018 at the age of 37. He had won an ICC World Cup, a T20 World Cup and two IPL championships as a captain.
But what are his most cherished memories? Which is the one innings he treasures the most? Which team-mate does he revere the most? Which controversy does he wants to forget the most?
The Quint caught up with the former opener and got him to spill the beans.
First things first. You were one of the top scorers in domestic cricket this season when you decided to retire. Why now? What told you it was time to go?
Look I’ve always felt if you can’t play for India then runs don’t matter. There will always be times when you think you could’ve played more. You could’ve played more games, and scored more runs. But the moment I realised that scoring runs in first-class cricket or in the IPL will take me nowhere forward, it was time for me to go. I have no right to stop a young cricketer’s progress. Probably, he will score runs and get more opportunities.
Almost 20 years after you probably picked up a bat for the first time, is this a good time to ask – if you hadn’t become a cricketer, what would you have done?
I wanted to go into the army and I was very clear that if I don’t play cricket, I want to join the army. Probably after 12 I wanted to go join the NDA because I was very, very serious about it but then I played Ranji Trophy when I was in 12th. I got a double hundred in India under-19 as well so obviously everyone thought I was so close to playing for India. Then I also realised that I had worked so hard and I should continue playing cricket.
But yes, the army is something I’ve always wanted to be a part of.
Highest-scorer in the World Cup final that India won, highest-scorer in the T20 World Cup final as well and then there’s that Napier Test innings that even VVS Laxman says was your finest outing. Which of these would you pick?
Napier, no doubt about that. I think I was always very clear about doing well in Test cricket and that was my first overseas tour as well, as an opener. It was about beating your own personality, beating your own temperament and beating your own perception as well.
Because, me being a very impatient boy, I had never dreamed of playing for two and a half days and when we were supposed to play for two and a half days, even then I didn’t think I’d be able to play for so long.
But then those things happen just when you get into that zone. I don’t even know how I got into that zone. I remember on Day 4, there was a time when I batted the whole session and got one run. But after that innings, I realised how many things a human mind can do and that probably changed my entire career because I was able to beat my own perception and my own temperament.
2008 to 2011. There was your career and then there were these years. Constantly scoring runs, on top of your game, centuries almost at will. Those really were the golden years of your career.
I’m not going to say those were the best years just because of my performance. The most important achievements during that phase were that we ended up being the number one Test side in the world and we were able to win the T20 World Cup and we won the 2011 World Cup plus we won a series in New Zealand, the CB Series. So, all those achievements were not only because of me it was because of the entire team as well.
Probably that was the time when I felt secure as well, secure than normally I used to
because there were always insecurities, there were always doubts in my career that I’m going to get dropped and stuff so I had to literally be on my toes all the time. I couldn’t just let my guard down and that’s the reason I couldn’t enjoy the amount I should have or smile the amount I should have....I couldn’t have fun as much as I should have.
Then there was 2012. The year after you won the World Cup, MS Dhoni introduced his rotation policy which saw you, Sachin and Sehwag sharing two slots between you because he wanted to focus on the 2015 World Cup. Did it seem like a good call at the time?
I think 2012 was too early for anyone to plan for 2015. I think you don’t plan three years before and I personally feel there was no need for that because you need to pick the best playing XI which can win you the match.
Irrespective of age. If you’re not good enough, you should not be part of the team. It’s not about you and it’s not about me, it’s about the entire nation. It’s not a club side. It’s about doing something for the nation because you’re responsible and answerable to the entire country.
I was a bit surprised but that’s his call. He’s the captain and he’s taken the decision.
And your relationship with Dhoni? Many say it took a hit after 2012. Have bygones been made bygones or do you still have some hard feelings?
We’ve always been very good friends. We’ve shared a room together during a camp in Bangalore, an Indian team camp. We’ve had a fabulous relationship. These are all rumours. When you’ve done so many special things together for the country and when you’ve shared the lowest moments together and the best moments together, how can there be any differences?
I think I never tried clarifying it and I’m sure he never tried clarifying that either because you only try clarifying things which are true. You don’t clarify rumours. You don’t need to clarify rumours either. We’ve shared a fabulous relationship and we will always.
Favourite captain then?
Anil Kumble, and he wasn’t just a captain. He was a leader. I think I’ve played under a lot of captains and if I have to pick someone who is a leader and not a captain, it’s Anil Kumble.
A lot of my captaincy skills come from him. I have learned so much from him. I didn’t play too much under him, I only played five Test matches but whatever I could take from the five Tests to become a better leader, I took from him.
He’s probably the best role model India could ever have. If there are two people I would like a young cricketer to model themselves on, it would be Kumble and VVS Laxman.
(This story was first published on 12 January and has been reposted from The Quint's archives to mark Gautam Gambhir’s 38th birthday.)
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