The Gautam Gambhir I Know is Very Different From the One You See
Back in early 2000, a young Gautam Gambhir was playing a game for Delhi against Haryana. Legendary Bishan Singh Bedi was the coach of the team, known for his strict and extremely disciplined approach. In the first innings, barring Gambhir, none of the Delhi batsmen looked comfortable. He went on to score a hundred, but after reaching the landmark, he had a lapse in concentration and lost his wicket. The rest of the batting order collapsed after his wicket.
Bedi was furious at his dismissal and didn’t hide his emotions. He felt that Gautam should have taken more responsibility and should have stayed longer after scoring a hundred. Gautam, despite scoring a hundred, was punished. He was asked to take five or 10 rounds of the ground. Embarrassed and disappointed, he was seething inside. After all, he had scored the most runs in the team and was still being punished.
That’s the Gautam I know on the field. Fierce, defiant and intense.
He would be one of those rare international cricketers who would crave for domestic cricket and won’t miss a chance to represent Delhi. So it's only apt that his last professional outing in cricket will be against Andhra Pradesh this weekend in the Ranji Trophy.
Gautam served Indian cricket with passion and commitment. His biggest contributions came in matches that mattered the most. India’s victories in two World Cup finals had significant contributions from him.
People still talk about the 97 he scored against Sri Lanka in the 2011 ICC World Cup final, the century that could not be. But he never talks about it, and even when you ask him about missing the century, he becomes uncomfortable. For him, the happiness of winning the World Cup was far important than carrying the regret of those 3 runs.
Just after the World Cup, he once jokingly told me, ‘main theek hoon 97 ke sath, duniya 3 runo ke liye udhas hai.’
I know Gautam from the days when he started playing for Delhi. There were stories about a son of a wealthy businessman, making his mark in cricket. Cricket folklores are often filled with young boys coming from poor backgrounds and giving away everything to chase their dream. But there was a boy who had all the facilities and distractions as a kid. But his passion was of a different level. Like all affluent kids in cricket, he also heard his family saying: Is it worth it? He came to the ground, more determined and eager.
He shuttled a lot between domestic cricket and the international team, but never lost hope, only emerging stronger and better. Along with his Delhi teammate Virender Sehwag, he helped India reach the pinnacle of Test cricket. They were the most successful openers of their times. Dazzling Sehwag didn’t allow us to see how attacking Gauti was. And that’s a compliment.
The Gautam or Gauti I know personally is very different from what we saw on the field and the one on social media these days. I found him extremely polite and friendly in his personal space. Going to his grandmother’s home in Karol Bagh for his interview used to be a longer than usual affair. Because once the interview was over, it was almost sure Gautam will indulge in chit-chat, would like to know more about what’s happening in the world. Meanwhile, his grandmother would come with food or Karol Bagh snacks.
Hours would pass before the office used to give a call and remind us to feed the interview from the nearest OB van. The only issue in his company was to bear the freezing cold in his room. Gautam’s AC room temperature would always be at 16 degrees and it would get so cold that Yuvraj once said, “when you are going to Gauti’s room, please take your quilt with you”.
Just like his cricket and true to his personality, Gautam does many things without any hype and showmanship. Currently, he provides education and financial support to almost 52 kids of the Indian Army martyrs and only seldom talks about it.
Gambhir’s second innings has already started. He is a doting father of two young girls; he’s very loving, and often worried. But that’s Gautam Gambhir for you. If he loves something, he cares for it and cares hard.
That’s why his second innings in life would be no different from the first one. Whatever he will do, he will give his best. It could be politics, family business, commentary, coaching, and you shouldn’t even be surprised to see him at a Delhi Ranji game.
(Nishant Arora is an award-winning cricket journalist, and most recently, the media manager of the Indian Cricket Team. He also co-authored the best-selling book on Yuvraj Singh’s battle with cancer.)