Gambhir presents a compelling case

Even after spending over two decades in top-flight cricket as a player, captain, commentator and mentor, Gambhir remains an enigma, at least to the world outside the change room.
Last Updated : 10 July 2024, 16:12 IST

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Bengaluru: A reaction on social media after Gautam Gambhir's appointment as the Indian cricket team's Head Coach went along this line, "either there will be three ICC trophies or 30 fights by the end of his tenure!" 

That succinctly captured the popular, but not necessarily the right, perception about the man of the moment.

Even after spending over two decades in top-flight cricket as a player, captain, commentator and mentor, Gambhir remains an enigma, at least to the world outside the change room. With each of his utterances and actions, he gives a different impression of himself. He can appear petulant one moment and big-hearted the next; he can be a caring older brother today and a streetfighter you don't want to confront the next day. There's an inherent contradiction which evokes aforementioned view. Gambhir maybe combative and controversial yet he presents a compelling case of himself. 

For one, the Indian dressing room will have to adjust to Gambhir's distinct style of functioning. Having seen successive coaches, who brought a sense of calm and preferred to stay out of limelight, the team will have to come to terms with southpaw's rather impassioned approach. That's, however, not to run down the method. There is no one way to success and Gambhir both as an IPL captain and a mentor has proved his deliverability. That said, it remains to be seen if his IPL success can be replicated with the Indian team; it remains to be seen if his ideas and approach would work in a national team for the dynamics between the two set ups are as different as the chalk is from the cheese.

At 42, he is perhaps the youngest coach India have ever had and he has played with or against most of the present team. There is a sense of camaraderie and a certain familiarity of the person who can be a nightmare for face-reading experts for his intense look remains undisturbed even if he gets a desired result. Even as a player, he brought so much intensity to his game that he never seemed to enjoy what he did. 

"I am not here to smile, I am here to win matches," he told R Ashwin on the off-spinner's YouTube show a few months ago. Whether this intensity becomes too overbearing or magically inspiring only time will tell, but the Delhiite may just be the ideal choice to shepherd a team that could see a massive transition in the next couple of years or so for he brings in a fresh perspective, new outlook and a different vibe. 

Talking of vibe, he will have to form a working relationship, if not strike a great chemistry, with two of the most senior members of the team -- skipper (Test and ODI) Rohit Sharma and his predecessor, Virat Kohli. Fitness permitting, both are going to be around for a while with an eye on the 2025 World Test Championship subject to India qualifying for the final. Gambhir takes no prisoners, but even he knows he has some tight-rope walking to do here. While the former MP has had good things to say about Rohit in the past, his relationship with Kohli has been interesting. They have had ugly exchanges on the field in IPL and Gambhir didn't always have nice things to say about his junior Delhi mate. There's, however, no denying that both are similar characters. They are feisty and want to win at any cost; their fights, therefore, could just be two Delhi boys doing things they do on the field of play (or anywhere for that matter). 

When Kohli scored his maiden ODI ton against Sri Lanka in Kolkata, the other centurion in the match was adjudged the player of the match. That player was Gambhir and he handed over the trophy to his younger team-mate. Gambhir, incidentally, played his last Test under Kohli after making an unsuccessful comeback in 2016 against England. There's a sense of appreciation and gratitude for each other and they may just hit it off well.

The Indian cricket is set for some interesting times ahead.    

Published 10 July 2024, 16:12 IST

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