Ricky Ponting’s decision to call it quits on Thursday, might have added fuel to the fire in the raging debate over Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement, but India opener Gautam Gambhir feels his senior teammate still has a lot to offer.

“Nobody can force anyone to retire. Each individual knows when is the best time to retire. Ponting retiring doesn’t mean that Sachin also has to quit now. It’s an individual decision. They are from two different countries, two different individuals. So there is no question of a comparison,” Gambhir said.

At a time when the 39-year-old Mumbaikar’s place in the team has been questioned by critics, Gambhir went to the extent of saying that Tendulkar still has the “capability to make lots of runs for India”.

“His presence in the dressing room itself is a big thing for the country. I am sure he will come out of it. Everybody goes through ups and downs. It’s the sheer joy of playing the game, he loves playing. He is the greatest cricketer India has produced. Not just on the field, as a mentor he contributes off the field too. He still has the capability to make lots of runs for India,” Gambhir said at an event here.

Coming back to Ponting, who today announced that he will retire from Test cricket after playing in the third Test against South Africa in Perth, Gambhir called him Australia’s “best ever captain”.

“He is a legend of the game. He has played cricket on his own terms, he is retiring on his own terms. His record in all three formats speaks for itself. He has been Australia’s most successful captain ever.”

Gambhir came out in support of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and saw nothing wrong in the skipper asking for a turning wicket.

“A captain should get the kind of wicket he wants. There is nothing wrong in it. We all should support him instead of making it an issue. If he thinks he can win on a particular sort of wicket we should support him. After all he is your captain and he will only think about victory. All the former captains would ask for turners. I think during Mohammad Azharuddin’s time we used to play on turning tracks, nobody had raised a question then.”

The Delhi player also felt that he and his teammates should not be blamed all the time for defeat.

“What amazes me is that we never appreciate the opposition. We should also praise the opposition rather than criticise our own players.The opposition does play good cricket. They are not here to just make up the numbers. The series is tied 1-1, we haven’t lost it yet and we can still come back. Any country can bounce back today,” said Gambhir.

Asked how crucial was his second-inning half century in the Mumbai Test from his career’s point of view, Gambhir said “Any knock is important for me. Every run I score for my country is very satisfying.On the English spinners’ performance in Mumbai Test'', he said,

“They bowled very well, both (Graeme) Swann and (Monty) Panesar, but that doesn’t mean we can’t tackle spin well England can win anywhere, they have got the quality in batting and bowling. But remember we were world number 1 and have won Test matches in Australia, South Africa. We are looking forward to the Kolkata Test. We need to be positive. Would look to dominate them.”

Gambhir was here as the face of the Hindustan Times’ ‘You Read, They Learn’ campaign where he played cricket with the kids and talked more about his contribution to the project.

“Kids have to go to school for overall development, discipline. My biggest motivation is to contribute something for my country, like educating the kids so that they can take their own decisions,” said Gambhir.

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