After being out of the national side for a year-and-a-half, Gautam Gambhir earned a recall for the five-Test tour of England. Sandeep Dwivedi meets the opener and pieces together the story of his comeback
While talking to the Kolkata Knight Riders squad during the home leg of IPL 7, former Aussie Test opener, now a busy batting problem-solver, Justin Langer, threw up a brain-teaser. Are you guys watching the ball while batting? Specifics about smirks and stifled laughs that this seemingly ludicrous question received haven’t yet been leaked from the KKR dressing room but it now emerges that Langer, through his query, could have given KKR’s then out-of-form skipper, Gautam Gambhir, a career-changing advice.
For the uninitiated, or even the inexperienced, Langer’s inqury might seem as lame as asking the living if they breathe. But for Gautam, the articulate Aussie had hit the nail on the head. One opener had helped another to zero in on his ‘zero’ problem — KKR skipper had started the season with 3 ducks.
Over the years, ‘the thinking’ batsmen, while dealing with run slumps, have overburdened their minds with long technical check lists and complex theories. In the bargain, their over-analytical minds have missed the woods for the trees. They would tend to merely ‘look’ at the ball, and not, as Langer said, ‘watch’ it. Gambhir, a self-confessed intense cricketer, speaks about how Langer’s words made him audit his thoughts and re-focus on the ball — the change that brought with it 3 half-centuries, a second IPL title, a Test recall and a template to follow for the England tour.
“When you are short on confidence and runs, rather than looking at the ball you wonder where you will get your first run. You start thinking about the gaps, what if the ball swings away, what if it comes in, what the bowler is going to do. There are so many things happening in your mind that even if you want to focus on the ball the mind will not allow you to,” says Gambhir, recalling his days of struggle while settled comfortably between puffy cushions in his living room.
It’s been about a fortnight since his second bus-top felicitation in Kolkata. The anticipation of the upcoming England tour and Test comeback has made the short break at home sweeter. Not far from where the new-father sits is a pink pram and scattered toys. This is a happy phase in Gambhir’s life, it’s that time when cricketers don’t mind talking about their days of doubts and even indulge in brutal self-assessment. They even open up to kicking an old habit.
Regulars on the circuit have often spoken about Mr Serious’ unquenchable thirst for cricket talk where he mostly likes continued…