‘My determination comes from my love for the game’

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Vijay Lokapally

NEW DELHI: Four hundreds in five first-class matches in the recently-concluded domestic season set up Gautam Gambhir as the most dominating run-getter. He firmly believes in getting on top and cutting the bowlers down to size.

Four half-centuries in nine international Twenty20 matches is a small indication of his ability to make a scorching statement in the middle. He can be gentle, but not timid; he knows the value of politeness in a world where insolence is often wrongly construed as aggression.

High point

The last tour to Australia was a high point in his career that began in 2004 with a forgettable Test debut against Australia. But his third innings in Tests was a 96 against South Africa in Kanpur and his seventh was a 139 against Bangladesh. He has played just 14 Tests but has 47 ODI caps with four centuries to his credit — two in the CB Series in Australia.

“Getting runs in difficult conditions has always encouraged me to believe in myself. The domestic season was a blessing (missing the Test series in Australia due to a shoulder injury) and helped me grow in confidence,” said Gambhir. His confidence destroyed Baroda and Mumbai as he slammed back-to-back centuries to help Delhi lift the Ranji Trophy.

“Bad innings stay in mind,” he confesses. So he looks to play as many good innings as possible. “Get runs for the team,” is his firm promise to himself at the start of the season.

Changing tracks

Incidentally, Gambhir wanted to become a leg-spinner. His childhood friend and guide, Vivek Chadha, reminds you of a sensational dismissal that he effected at Jaipur in 2001. “A splendidly disguised delivery that left Nasser Hussain stranded,” recalls Chadha. Even Gambhir cannot suppress a smile.

When he visited Australia three years ago with the India ‘A’ squad, he enjoyed every moment of the tour. He emerged the highest run-getter. “Australia was superb. The things you had heard of — the pitches, the pace…made me nervous initially but I am glad I made runs. I trusted my abilities and that helped me take my game to a new high.”

Gambhir was jolted when he encountered repeated failures against Australia and Pakistan at home. “I was too hard on myself and took things seriously. I just kept thinking too hard and went into a shell. I told myself that one could only look ahead. After all, it is just a game and one has to learn from failures. I learnt too that I couldn’t get a hundred in each game,” he says.

But he made one when Sachin Tendulkar guided him during the CB Series. “I was on 39 when he joined me and told me to bat at least till the 40th over. ‘You have done your job but make a hundred,’ Sachin had said. I followed his instructions.”

A Sehwag fan

Virender Sehwag has countless fans but his biggest has to be Gambhir.

“I am a huge fan of Viru’s. He has always helped me. He criticises me, scolds me, keeps pointing out my mistakes. And that is what helps me the most. If only I could also bat like him,” says Gambhir.

The Delhi left-hander can’t forget what Sehwag keeps telling him.

“One has to back one’s natural style. You can’t change your game. You can try and modify it slightly but the basics remain the same. You may be a grafter or a stroke-player, you should only stick to your natural style.”

Gambhir, 26, loves to analyse his batting.

“I work on my batting but, believe me, I have never watched my batting twice. I always look to rectify my mistakes with help from the seniors. My determination comes from my love for the game and nothing excites me more than winning a match for club, state, zone or country. I am happy only when I make someone happy.”

He would have plenty such opportunities when he walks to bat for Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League.

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