Challenges and opportunities abound as Gambhir takes over coaching mantle

Gautam Gambhir
Gautam Gambhir (Source: X)

Before the 2012 IPL final between Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings, Gautam Gambhir had a decision to make: Whether to drop Brendon McCullum, the explosive batter, for the summit clash. Lakshmipathy Balaji, one of his lead seamers, had suffered an injury. So, Gambhir thought of rejigging the side by bringing in an overseas pace bowler in Brett Lee. In that process, to balance the overseas-quota, he had to leave out the experienced McCullum and select Manvinder Bisla. As it happened, from being known as Tillakaratne Dilshan’s lookalike, Bisla went on to star in KKR’s memorable triumph.

This anecdote from another time serves as an essence of Gambhir’s mentality to take tough decisions. So, the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s choice of naming Gambhir as the next head coach is perhaps the right one. Having said that, is just one example enough to vouch for Gambhir’s credentials? Absolutely, not. Let’s excavate more information on Gambhir’s  leadership and man-management qualities.

Just transport yourself back to last year when Virat Kohli, Naveen-ul-Haq and Gambhir ended up in a bout of heated exchanges after the completion of the Lucknow Super Giants-Royal Challengers game. On the face of it, it looked ugly, and all three of them involved in that incident were rightly criticised.

However, it is pertinent to scrutinise the incident from different points of views. One of the perspectives would be Gambhir, the-then mentor of LSG, was ready to back one of his players – Naveen – to the hilt. He later went on to say in a Podcast to ANI. “As a mentor, no one can come and walk over my players. I have a very different belief. Till the time game was on, I had no right to interfere. Once the game was over, if someone still gets into a heated argument with my players, I’ve got all right to defend them.”

Gambhir’s battle-hardened approach could come in handy when confronted with media or any external noise that could potentially dent a player’s mindset. Incidentally,  In the coming months, India are set to embark on another of those gruelling tours to Australia.

Gambhir’s appointment has to be also looked upon based on how India are shaping up in different formats of the game. Although India are doing well across formats,  there are certain challenges that need to be addressed. For starters, India have an aging Test side. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravi Ashwin, Mohammed Shami and co. are all on the wrong side of the 30s.

Even Jasprit Bumrah, India’s best cricketer at the moment, will be 31 this year. In fact, India are already in the transition phase, with the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Ajinkya Rahane being dropped from the Test set-up.


The crux of India’s fine performances in away Tests over the last some years has been built on having a good core of fast bowlers. Just that, India’s bowling discipline and tactical smarts weren’t exactly up to the mark in a few of the overseas Tests, in the recent past – be it Centurion or Edgbaston. In that context, it is pertinent that Gambhir selects the right candidate for the job of the bowling coach. It is also important that India’s next group of fast bowlers – Harshit Rana, Avesh Khan or Mayank Yadav and co. – get the right kind of guidance.

Despite India being crowned the T20 World Champions in the Caribbean, there are a few question marks that have to be answered. One of them is do India need format-based specialists, especially for the shortest format? The shortest version of the game is moving further and further away from the longest format in terms of the template and technique required to succeed. In the IPL, on flat pitches, we witnessed teams regularly targeting at least 100 runs in the Powerplay.

With Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma also retiring from T20Is, this is probably the right time for the new coach to build a squad comprising enough T20 specialists. One of those specialists could be Abhishek Sharma, who has already made an impression during India’s ongoing tour of Zimbabwe, with a blistering hundred at the top of the order.

This is a near-perfect time to take over the coaching mantle from Rahul Dravid as the team is on a high on the back of winning the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean. But it also brings with it an added amount of pressure on the next coaching staff to maintain the high standards. The onus would be on Gambhir to steer India through a few tricky periods and chart out a path that would take the side across formats to greater heights.