Gautam Gambhir will own his decisions

Gautam Gambhir
Gautam Gambhir (PC: KKR)

On May 14, 2024, on my show 5@5, one of my viewers asked if Gautam Gambhir can make a good India coach. It was an interesting suggestion and got me thinking. That’s when I first got to know that Gautam was being looked at as a possible successor to Rahul Dravid.

The IPL was still on and Gautam was doing duty for the Kolkata Knight Riders. Everyone was tight-lipped but the grapevine had it that the BCCI was keen on Gautam. And he, on his part, would never say no to an India job. It was a marriage waiting to happen and I had done a column to this effect on May 15 for RevSportz. Today, the announcement has been made official and Gautam will be in charge of the Indian team till December 2027.

What does Gautam bring to the table and will he be good for Indian cricket? While he hasn’t coached India A or India U-19, what is it that Gautam brings to the table which made him favourite for the job ahead of someone like WV Raman?

Gautam, it is known, 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 has been attributed to Gautam. As mentor of Lucknow Super Giants, he had steered the team to two consecutive play-off appearances, something that franchise has missed out this season. So track-record wise, Gautam was always a very good candidate.

What makes his choice interesting is his man management skills. May I say that the India coaching job is all about man management. It is about protecting the players at times of adversity and Gautam ticks the box on both these counts. In fact, he does it strongly. That he sided with Naveen-ul-Haq against Virat Kohli when he was at Lucknow speaks of his spunk, and as a captain, he never shied away from a challenge. In fact, the only occasion he tried to shield himself as a player was as KKR skipper in 2014, an instance 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. That’s when I felt pressure. I then got one 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 one. 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,” said Gautam.

This one incident sums up his cricketing philosophy. Take the call, good or bad. Own your decisions and be clear about it. Things could be right or they could be wrong. But Gautam will never be in doubt. It is this decisiveness that made him a good mentor to KKR. He was the one who pushed Sunil Narine to open. And as B Arun said, he was insistent about it.

Just about a month earlier, each one of us said that as far as the national team is concerned, the one thing that India have lacked in crunch moments is decisiveness. We have been timid in ICC tournaments and with Gautam on board, this could well be addressed and addressed well.

But now, things are different. Rahul Dravid leaves as a World Cup winning coach and the one thing about this campaign is India’s ability to come back from situations of adversity. Against South Africa in the final it was all but over. That’s when the team held nerve and the rest is history. Does this make it difficult for Gautam? That Dravid leaves as a World Cup winning coach, makes the job far more challenging than it was when he applied for it? Nothing but a world title will suffice and Gautam will know it well.

Gautam had already freed himself up from political duty to make sure he could be with KKR all IPL. Now he has done so with India. With a young family, the call could not have been easy. But then when has sport ever been easy? It is always a quest. A quest for excellence. And with Gautam, we will always see fight and see effort. We will see feistiness and the ride will be exciting.