‘You don’t go there to make friends,there is no need to take abuse…’

Having seen the lows of being dropped from the team and the highs of scoring most runs in the squad,<B><font color="#cc000">Gautam Gambhir</font></B> has come a long way. In this interaction with <B>The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief</B> <B><font color="#cc000">Shekhar Gupta</font></B> on NDTV 24x7’s Walk the Talk,he talks of aggressiveness,the insecurity he felt in the initial phase of his career and the qualities of a good captain

Published: March 2, 2009 2:50 am

&#149;I am at Delhi’s Modern School with its most famous pupil today. Gautam Gambhir,welcome to Walk the Talk.

You seem to like coming back to your classroom?

Absolutely,I think this place has a very special place in my heart. I started my life as a kid at this place and played a lot of cricket. I think a lot of things started from here,especially my cricket. I started taking cricket seriously when I joined this school. Senior school,junior school — there were hardly any facilities. So when I entered this school,we had a very good team at that point of time,we had great facilities as well.

&#149;Every second kid wants to play cricket and wants to be a Gautam Gambhir today,isn’t it?

I hope that thing happens… ultimately,you want to go on to play for your country because that’s the biggest honour when you represent your country. When you wear that uniform,it means a lot,and I think that means a lot to me as well.

&#149;But the going was tough for you to get into the Indian camp,isn’t it?

For me,I haven’t got anything easily. I think I made four or five comebacks in one-day cricket and three comebacks in Test cricket. So it hasn’t been that easy. I have played 67 ODIs till now in my five comebacks. So whenever I go on to the field,I go with this one mindset that this could be the last innings that I am gonna play for my country,and then why not just go out there and give everything that I have.

&#149;You also had some tough luck in U-15,U-17 stage. You have had the habit of missing the World Cups?

When I missed the 2007 World Cup,that was the lowest point in my career.

&#149;That was a good World Cup to miss. It was a disaster.

Absolutely. But before that I thought that I really missed it by a whisker. The first World Cup which I played was the Twenty20 World Cup,and I really wanted to make it count. Fortunately,I ended up being the highest run-getter from the Indian team.

&#149;And since then there’s been no stopping. You played that great innings in the one-day tri-series in Australia.

I didn’t have a very good one-day series against Australia when they were here. As soon as we landed from the Twenty20 World Cup,Australians were here,and we were playing seven ODI matches. I didn’t get runs in the first three ODIs and then I got injured. Then I played the Twenty20 game and became the Man of the Match. After that I had a decent one-day series against Pakistan but my graph in one-day cricket wasn’t that great.

&#149;And there were some suggestions that Gautam Gambhir gets runs against weak teams?

Yeah. When I was in England,people were saying I can only get runs against a weaker opposition. That was one thing which really motivated me,and since then things have turned around.

&#149;Did somebody say something that hurt you at that point,or that really irritated you?

I think till then I wasn’t that secure,to be very honest. I always felt if I didn’t get runs in one or two innings,I’d be dropped to make another comeback. But after the Twenty20 World Cup,one thing that really changed was that I got that feeling of security,and since then I think things have gone in my favour. One turning point in my career was the CB series in Australia.

&#149;You got two hundreds in that series.

I got two hundreds,I was the highest run-getter in the tri-series. If someone goes to Australia for the first time and ends up being the highest run-getter in the CB Series,it gives confidence. I took that confidence forward through the year. I think a lot of credit goes to the CB Series for the way I performed last year.

&#149;You know you say something very interesting for someone so young that it is tough to go out there with insecurity on your mind.

Never nice. Whoever plays for the country should always have that sense of security. They should feel themselves as part of the side and they should never play for themselves. Once you start playing for yourself then the only thing which is on your mind is to play for a place in the side,which is not good for anyone.

&#149;I have been speaking to some of your seniors,and they have all said to me one thing that ‘‘when Gautam came into play we were so pleasantly surprised to see a youngster who played for the team. We never saw him play for himself’’.

I think I have always been a very patriotic guy. For me,playing for India is the most important thing,it is the biggest honour because you are representing 1,000 million… You are carrying the weight of expectations of the entire country on your shoulders,and that means a lot to me.

&#149;But when you are into your nineties,you are conscious,aren’t you?

I think I have missed three Test hundreds. I have got out on 97,98 and 96. Yes,sometimes you think about milestones but it has never happened with me,because for me,the most important thing is the team,and I really want to earn respect of my colleagues. I don’t want people telling me that I play for myself.

&#149;It’s easy to get you pepped up. It’s easy to get you angry as well.

I feel I am still the same. What I am off the field,I am on the field as well. It’s just that my passion,my passion to play for my country and my will to win games for my country,which make me sometimes lose temper. What sometimes I have done in the past,it should not have happened. I should have been more responsible,because when you are in a good form,you can’t afford to let your team and colleagues down. When you are in good nick,your team expects you to play each and every game,and try and win series.

&#149;So what happens is,people get on your nerves,and an elbow goes out,shoulder goes out…

I think it was blown out of proportion. I should have been more responsible,no doubt about that but there was much more to it. I was being abused throughout from the first Test itself. I was taking it,but then somewhere down the line,you need to put an end to it. So I think that was the instant reaction which I made. But I realised I should have been more responsible.

&#149;Maybe that was the idea to provoke you into doing something. So they got you out twice,isn’t it? You missed a Test match.

Absolutely,if someone asks me ‘what’s the biggest regret which you have in 2008’,it is missing the Nagpur Test match because the kind of form which I was in,I would have never wanted to miss that

Test. Because once you are in good nick,you don’t wanna have any break,especially when I had made such a big contribution in that series. In fact,my friend and my favourite cricket expert Harsha Bhogle tells me that my double hundred in that series was really a coming of age for me. I made my debut against Australia but I didn’t contribute at all. So that day I told myself I really wanna make a big contribution whenever I play next against Australia.

&#149;One of my unhappiest memories of cricket is Kapil allowing Kepler Wessels to get away with knocking him in the shin with his bat in South Africa. Wessels apparently got upset because Kapil ran somebody out while bowling. Why should Indian cricketers take any of that?

Absolutely,I think there is no need to take any stuff from any corner,because ultimately you go out there to win games for your country,you don’t go out there to make friends. Cricket is like a religion in India,and everyone expects you to win each and every game. When you have so many people supporting you then why do you need take all that?

&#149;In this case,Australians were subjecting you to abuse,knowing that you were a key member of your team. Isn’t it?

I think they were provoking me,they were provoking me throughout. They started to do it from the first Test because we were not in a great position. We were trying to save that Test in Bangalore,I still remember. They started provoking me from that innings itself. And they kept doing it in Mohali,they did that a lot in Mohali.

&#149;Would you tell me something about what they said to provoke? Don’t tell me something that’s unprintable.

I still remember one comment which was made by Ricky Ponting in Bangalore Test while he was standing at silly point. He said “you haven’t set the world on fire. You haven’t done anything in international cricket. The day you do that then come and speak to me”. That really motivated me. I just told myself “OK,this is the time to dig deep and I have to contribute in a big way”. I got a seventy in the next innings,I got a hundred in Mohali and I got a double hundred in Delhi.

&#149;You also started the trend of having a Virender Sehwag’s signed bat,and others are following it now.

Yeah,Viru gave me one. The first bat which Viru gave was in the Twenty20 World Cup,and I got lots of runs from that bat. Then he gave me one bat in Bangladesh. I got a lot of runs with that as well. He gave one bat after that,and I got a double hundred with that too.

&#149;So Viru has got a new business model coming up. He should sign bats and give them to batsmen.

Absolutely,that’s what I keep telling him. Whenever I break a bat,I just tell him that I need a bat from you with your autograph. He gives it with good wishes,and he has a lot of good wishes for me.

&#149;Tell me about your relationship with him. It’s a very special bond.

Yeah,Viru and I share a very good relationship,not only on the field but off the field as well. We spend a lot of time together. Coming from the same state,playing for the same company,playing for the same IPL side and then playing for India,I think the relationship has only grown.

&#149;In many ways,playing very similar cricket. Both of you are fearless.

I think that’s the way the north Indians are born. I think we guys are more aggressive. Coming from Delhi,we want to dominate all the time.

&#149;Given your size,people wonder how you hit the ball so hard. I tell people he hits the ball from his head,not with his body.

Absolutely,I think if you really want to be successful at international level,it’s all about your mind. Technique or skill is fine to an extent,but it’s all about your mind — how mentally strong you are and what you think about yourself. Because ultimately you don’t have to prove it to anyone,you have to prove it to yourself.

&#149;Viru says you charge at fast bowlers coming at 150 km/hr.

I started doing that against Chaminda Vaas in Sri Lanka. Since then it has been working for me… that way,I can actually rattle the bowler,I can rattle the line and length.

&#149;You and Viru talk a lot while batting.

We don’t discuss cricket when we are batting together. We just share a joke,or we just sing some songs because there is already so much of pressure.

&#149;Tell me about your other batting partners: Rahul Dravid,Sachin?

Both of them are great; they are legends. But when Viru and I are playing together,it’s different. We just have to look into each other’s eyes,and go off for a single. With him at the other hand,sometimes when I am not comfortable with some bowler,I can just walk up to him and tell him “listen,this is what I am feeling,I’m just not comfortable”. Last time when Sri Lanka was here,Chaminda Vaas got me out three or four times in the Test series. I had a lot of doubts against him when we went to Sri Lanka during my comeback after two years in Test cricket. So I told Viru “I am very nervous and you have to do something about this”. I was very nervous when I was playing my first innings as well.

&#149;I am fascinated about the way you and Viru have deciphered Chaminda Vaas. Now it looks like that the Indian team has figured him out but in that series,the disastrous series,it looked like only you and Viru could play not only him but also the combination of Ajantha Mendis and Murali.

I feel Mendis is different. Unfortunately,we were the first team to play against him,so we had to take a little more time to adjust to him because he has three or four different deliveries. But if you see the way we played him in the one-day series after the Test matches and the way we played him the last time around,it is absolutely different. We have dominated him and Murali.

&#149;You have been playing Murali so beautifully.

Yeah,I have been able to play Murali well,but he has got me out a couple of times as well. I don’t think I have been able to handle him completely,because he is a legend.

&#149;Who is the best spin bowler you have played?

So far,it is Murali. But I always wanted to play Shane Warne. I just played him in the IPL.

&#149;And fast bowlers. Which one is the toughest you have faced?

Shaun Pollock stands out for me because he has got me out several times.

&#149;But he is not the fastest of all by any means?

Yes. But he bowls in those areas where batsmen never want bowlers to bowl.

&#149;I believe in England,Rahul Dravid stood up for you,and he said here’s a teamman who now needs to be given chance.

I feel one thing which has happened is that I have got security now. When we went for the Twenty20 World Cup,Dhoni gave me that sense of security.

&#149;Four key batsmen — Sehwag,Ganguly,Dravid,Tendulkar. Or let’s have number five,Laxman. What will you learn from each,or what would you wish that you had from each one?

I think the amount of runs they have made for the country,if I can do that much then I think I have done a lot for this country. And the amount of games they have won… I think I always want to be as gritty as Rahul Dravid… I would like to have entire Sachin Tendulkar if I can bat like him… Sourav,as a captain,has changed a lot of things for the Indian cricket. The Indian team started realising that they can win overseas… I think if I can play the way Laxman plays his flick and be the kind of human being that he is,it would be very good. He is the best human being I have ever come across in cricketing circles. He is Very Very Special.

&#149;Your teammates tell me “woh bahut serious hai,uska naam Gambhir theek hi hai”.

I think Viru,Munaf or Ishant can tell you better whether I am too quiet. When I am with them,I am the only one speaking.

&#149;Have a wonderful future in cricket.

Thank you.

Transcript prepared by Vinayak Padmadeo

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