Emotions and cricket have always gone together – be it a heavyweight or a minnow. There is always that romance to sport. Some say it brings you down while others feel it brings the best out of you. Opinions remain divided, but very vocal on this front. “Itna gaali dega to khelega kya (if he’ll keep abusing how will he play),” is the typical response when a viewer spots a player swearing. And it happens quite often. Very few go on to spot the supremely charged emotion behind the moment. The intent slips under the radar and the action takes centrestage, and draws criticism on most occasions. (Results | Fixtures | Points Table)
Many such moments were on display when Gautam Gambhir led Kolkata Knight Riders during the ongoing edition of the Indian Premier League. Like the Indian skipper Virat Kohli, Gambhir is a man of lot of words and is seldom tight-lipped in the middle. Whether his side is behind or ahead, the intent from Gambhir remains right up there. Take for instance the Eliminator against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Wednesday.
The ‘intent game’ commenced on a strong note when he made four changes to the XI, and picked a balanced squad to outsmart defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad. It went further up when Piyush Chawla, picked for Kuldeep Yadav, cleaned up David Warner. The skipper rushed to his leggie and blurted something in his ears. Boy, Gambhir was pumped at that moment. Why shouldn’t he be? They just got the most dangerous batsman of the tournament out and were looking good to restrict SRH to a modest total. Some would have just stood their ground with hands crossed behind the back, gentle cap and bowler would have rushed to his mark for the next delivery. Not Gambhir.
He will be the first one to showcase his displeasure over an incident and definitely the first to rush to his bowler/fielder after success. Gambhir, 35, has had a lot of success in both Indian and IPL colours but the hunger to keep going sets him apart. Even after a brilliant run with the bat, he wasn’t considered for Champions Trophy. But that hasn’t dropped his shoulders, even by a centimetre. Every time he leads the troops out, there is that spark in his eyes, the intent to deliver and hunger to succeed. He clearly is one of a kind.
When KKR were set a 48-run target in six overs, many predicted a cakewalk but it wasn’t the case. The two-time champs were off to a poor start and lost three early wickets. Gambhir, however, was still there. In the second over of the chase, Chris Jordan pitched one short, and Gambhir got a healthy top-edge. The ball sailed over the ropes and the skipper was just charging his batteries for the fist pump, and the celebration to follow after the win.
An over later, Sidharth Kaul’s short delivery was pulled away in fine fashion for another six and the repeated fist pumps showed how much it mattered to the 35-year-old. In came the winning run in the final over and Gambhir, after seeing Ishank Jaggi make ground safely at the other end, took some steps before the celebration. Shah Rukh Khan responded from the stands with an equally expressive gesture and KKR kept their campaign alive. For Gambhir, he gets another game, at least, to show the world why emotions don’t always pull you down.