He loves the challenge of opening

VIVEK BENDRE

“Individuals don’t matter; it is the team that counts. It is not about ‘ME’ but ‘WE,’” Gautam Gambhir tells Vijay Lokapally.

Gautam Gambhir speaks the way he bats — very positive, very assertive. The focus is on getting runs with an aggressive mindset. That is how he has played his cricket from the time he dreamt of wearing the India cap.

In eight years of international cricket, Gambhir has played 51 Tests (up to the Ahmedabad Test against England in the on-going series; 3815 runs and nine centuries) and 139 ODIs (5077 runs and 11 centuries). The Indian opening batsman speaks to Sportstar about his game, what motivates him on the field, his partnership with Virender Sehwag and more.

Question: What have you learnt from the past season? Do you have any new resolutions?

Answer: Honestly, I don’t dwell in the past. That is what I said after winning the 2011 World Cup. I have always maintained that I am not the one to keep thinking about the past, whether I do well or not. It doesn’t help. Yes, I am looking forward to a big season and looking to concentrate on one game at a time.

Why do you say you don’t like to look at the past? What changes have you seen in the last few years?

You can’t sit glued to the past. If you do that, you won’t improve. In life, you keep making mistakes and you keep improving. In cricket, you can’t get runs every time. You are looking to improve as a player and as a human being, face all the challenges that are thrown at you at various levels. You have to remember the good memories and try to forget the disappointing ones. It has been a great journey until now, but certainly not a bed of roses. Life teaches you a lot.

What role do you see for yourself now, as a senior member of the team now?

It is all about experience. When you step on to the field all the 11 players have to contribute if you have to win a game of cricket. Here the experience factor comes in. As players on the field, all are at the same level. You go with a mission to win and have to use your experience.

S. SUBRAMANIUM

What is the difference between domestic and international cricket?

It is a big step from domestic to international cricket. The difference is very obvious, but it remains a game of cricket. It is a contest between bat and ball. Anyone can bowl a good ball and you react to the ball whatever grade you play in. The quality of bowling and the pressure will be different, but it is cricket nevertheless. You have to look at the ball and react to the best of your ability.

What motivates you and what kind of goals do you set?

No goals, really. Motivation comes from the jersey I wear, whether it is India’s, Delhi’s or Kolkata Knight Riders’. I must do justice to the jersey I wear. If I don’t give my hundred per cent, then I am not doing justice to that jersey. The day I am not able to give hundred per cent to any of the teams I will stop playing cricket. I won’t fool myself by playing when I am not able to give hundred per cent. I won’t play just for the heck of it.

What is your hundred per cent?

It is my commitment to the team: to contribute towards my team’s victory and help my team-mates. It is not about doing well individually and not helping your team-mates. Individuals don’t matter; it is the team that counts. It is not about ‘ME’ but ‘WE’.

What does leadership mean to you?

There is a huge difference between a captain and a leader. In India, many people mistake a captain to be a good leader. For being a leader, one does not need a designation. He leads even off the cricket field, and when one does that, he becomes a leader and it then also becomes easy (for him) to be a captain. A captain is there for six hours, but a leader is there always, even when you are not on the field.

How would you describe good form and bad form?

It is very personal. Ultimately, you play to score runs. That is what matters in India, I think. People judge good form only from the runs you score or the wickets you take, and often not the way you have batted or bowled. In my case, I am happy if I have played a good game. For a batsman, it can change in the course of one ball. When you are hitting the ball brilliantly, suddenly you get a very good ball that gets you. You need luck as well. If you work hard, luck will follow. Once you have made a good start, you must look to make it big. There are batsmen with 20 centuries in their careers, which means they have crossed the line that matters 20 times. That can’t be the right indication. You must make it big because a failure could just be around the corner. For me, good form is watching the ball well. There are times I score runs but deep inside I have not watched the ball well. That tells me bad form is lurking and I work hard and try to perfect my skills.

The real Gautam Gambhir: arrogant or misunderstood?

When you go to work, you have a situation. You cannot be the same outside the office as well as inside it. The same goes for me too. I am doing a job, trying to win a game of cricket, and if I am not aggressive or hungry to win a game of cricket then I am never going to win a game of cricket. That’s how I have played my cricket. I can’t change my ways. I am not arrogant. There is a difference between being introvert and arrogant. I can share my heart with you but not with thousands of people. Each relationship in your life will be different from the other. My relationship with you will be different from the rest. I am aggressive but not arrogant. I want to compete to win, not just to compete. If I have to be aggressive, competitive and arrogant to win, I don’t really mind it. But please judge me from what I am off the field. I am not what you see on the cricket field. However, I will not worry just because some random guy makes such comments about me. Unfortunately, in India people tend to judge you without even knowing you, without even interacting with you. That is not right.

How much do you believe in preparing for a game? How well prepared is India for the season?

All that Viru and I are aiming is to give a good start that will help the team. More than scoring a century, a good start makes me happy. We enjoy each other’s company and that makes it very special.-PTI

We are well prepared. If you want to win when you get into two tough series, then believe me, individuals will not get you there. It will have to be team effort. Even the support staff would have to contribute. Individual performances can get you into good positions and also help you win a game, but not always. To win it has to be a team effort. You have to give credit to small contributions too. That one crucial wicket or a good 30 that has helped change a situation needs to be acknowledged. A century-maker or a bowler who has a five-wicket haul gets credit automatically, but what about the small contributions?

People talk of having a good start from you and Virender Sehwag and that you two have not delivered as expected. How do you look at it?

I have been hearing a lot that we have not done well. We still average 50. How many openers have managed that? We have done that at home and abroad. I am not trying to defend Viru or myself, but we always look to give good starts. We have tried our best and that should count. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it does not. When you walk in to bat, you look to give a good start and not just score a century. You look to see off the new ball, see off the first hour, the first session. It is the toughest thing in cricket. If it were not, then all the greats in the game would have loved to become openers only. Openers go out without knowing the condition and the state of the pitch, and with the bowlers coming at 140-plus, they are looking to give a good start. Not think about scoring a century. It can be very challenging. All that Viru and I are aiming is to give a good start that will help the team. More than scoring a century, a good start makes me happy. I love the challenge of opening. So does Viru. We enjoy each other’s company and that makes it very special. Who does not want to try? We try and that is what matters as far as I am concerned.