Gambhir as coach could be a game-changer for India

Gautam Gambhir
Gautam Gambhir (PC: X)

On my show, 5@5, one of my viewers asked yesterday if Gautam Gambhir would make a good India coach. It was an interesting suggestion, and got me thinking. Gautam has done brilliantly as mentor of the Kolkata Knight Riders, and a large part of the credit for KKR’s stellar run in the IPL this season is being attributed to him. As mentor of Lucknow Super Giants (LSG), he had steered the team to two consecutive play-off appearances, something they have missed out on this season despite being in a very good position a week or so ago. So, in terms of track record, Gautam would be a very good candidate.

The India coaching job is all about man management. It is about protecting the players in times of adversity, and Gautam ticks the boxes on both these counts. That he sided with Naveen-ul-Haq when he was at Lucknow spoke of his spunk, and as captain, he never shied away from a challenge. In fact, the only occasion when he tried to shield himself as a player was as KKR skipper in 2014 – an incident he calls the worst of his cricketing career.

“The only time I felt pressure was in 2014 when I got three consecutive ducks for KKR in Dubai as captain,” he once told me. “That was when I felt pressure. I then got 1 in the fourth innings, and was ashamed of my efforts. That was pressure. You feel the pressure when things don’t go well for you. Not when things are right and you are on a roll. In the fourth match, I asked Manish Pandey to open the innings and batted at No. 3 myself. Manish was scoring, and I did this because I was scared. I have no hesitation in accepting I was insecure and scared.

“However, Manish was out without scoring and I got out for 1. I told Manish I would never again do this, and decided to take things head on. I was feeling the pressure. I was nervous. But then, that’s what mental strength and courage is all about. You need to face up to the toughest challenges. In our next game, I opened the batting and smashed the first ball from Kane Richardson for four. Perhaps the most important four of my IPL career. That’s when things changed again.”

Gautam Gambhir with Rinku Singh
Gautam Gambhir with Rinku Singh (PC: X)

That one anecdote sums up his cricketing philosophy. Take the call, good or bad. It could be right, or it could be wrong. But Gautam will never be in doubt. It is this decisiveness that makes him a good mentor for KKR. They are almost the very same team as last year, except for the addition of Mitchell Starc. And yet, the fortunes have completely changed with Gautam coming in. As Venky Mysore pointed out, “The Sunil Narine call is Gautam’s. He was the one who pushed for Narine to open.” Close to 500 runs later, and Narine is undoubtedly the most valuable player of the IPL.

As far as the national team is concerned, the one thing that Indian teams have lacked in crunch moments is decisiveness. India have been timid in ICC tournaments, and if Gautam throws his hat in the ring, this could well be addressed and addressed well. But then, will he have the time? He freed himself from political duty to make sure he could be with KKR all IPL. Can he now go a step further and decide to take the plunge with India? With a young family and plenty of other commitments, the call will be a difficult one. But then, when has sport ever been easy? To get KKR to the top of the league wasn’t easy either. So, it is all a quest. As the IPL draws to a conclusion, could there be another challenge waiting for Gautam? If he does throw his hat in the ring, it will surely make things really interesting.

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