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The Gautam Gambhir way: Back players staunchly, high on instinct & recognise match-winners quickly


New Delhi, July 10
The cricketing world is abuzz with anticipation about what Gautam Gambhir will bring as the new head coach of the India senior men’s team, following his appointment on July 9.

At 42, Gambhir becomes the youngest head coach of the Indian team, taking over from Rahul Dravid, who ended his stint with T20 World Cup win last month. His three-year tenure in the top job starts on July 27 with the white-ball tour of Sri Lanka.

Gambhir, a gutsy former left-handed opener, mentored Lucknow Super Giants to IPL playoffs in 2022 and 2023. He then became the mentor for the Kolkata Knight Riders, a team he had previously captained to two IPL titles, and under his guidance, they went on to win IPL 2024.

"I think it’s a very good appointment. If you look at Gautam’s entire career, he has always been very proud of his country. When he used to play, he used to serve the country with a lot of dedication. He is getting that chance again, but this time as a head coach. So, I am sure he will give his 100% to this country and Indian team.

"Rahul Dravid sir has done a great job for this team, and there is no doubt about it. I feel this marks start of a golden moment for the Indian team, as Gautam is joining at the right time. I have the full confidence that Gautam will take this Indian team to further greater heights," says Manvinder Bisla, a member of KKR's 2012 IPL winning team under Gambhir’s leadership, to IANS.

In 2012, Gambhir expressed confidence in Bisla’s ability to excel in the title clash against Chennai Super Kings, favoring him over the highly regarded Brendon McCullum. The result was Bisla scoring an impressive 89 runs in 48 balls, leading KKR to their first IPL title.

Bisla remembers how supporting players strongly, something he experienced, can be beneficial for Gambhir in his new position as the head coach of India.

"The best captains or coaches, they are always result-oriented and are always looking around to find ways of achieving best results. It is not necessary that only a big name will win matches for you. Most of the times, it becomes very important to select the right players, give them confidence and back them.

"The way Gautam used to back the players as a captain, he never made you feel at all that there is a difference between you and a big player in the side. So, when he gives you a chance, he is having that complete confidence in you and your skills, as well as to not underestimate yourself. He’s having that absolute faith in you to do well and make the team win the match.

"When I played alongside him and then saw him working as a mentor at the KKR camp in the IPL, where they won the title, he has always treated everyone equally. It’s not like there is a big name player in the team, so he is treating him differently. Even if a squad member is not getting a chance to play, he is not treating him differently.

"You can easily go and talk to him; he listens to you. So, these are the qualities which will come to the fore when coaching the Indian team, and he will get very good results. Plus, if you look at Indian cricket, and the good space they are in, to continue in the way the team is playing, that continuity is very important, and I think Gautam is a perfect choice for that," he said.

Bisla highlights Ramandeep Singh as an example of a pace bowling all-rounder who thrived as a finisher for KKR in their IPL 2024 triumph with Gambhir’s backing.

"Ramandeep Singh was in the IPL for many years, but the way he played this time in the IPL, it brought his capabilities to the fore in a fantastic manner. So, it was very important to back him, especially as he’s an uncapped player.

"The way Ramandeep performed in IPL 2024, that really stood out because the number he used to bat, that is a very difficult job to thrive. It also shows that Gautam has the quality to get the best out of all the players in the team," said Bisla.

Bisla believes that Gambhir doesn’t heavily rely on data for strategic preparation and instead trusts his intuition. "From what I have seen of Gautam, don’t think he will be that big on data. Everyone wants to use their resources in the best way possible. But he is more into a gut feeling type of person, in terms of the players who can win matches and are ready for the battle on-field.

"When you play for the country, every match is like a battle, and its very important to be 100% ready for every ball. He likes gutsy players, and the ones who can win matches, he backs them up. Plus, that gut feeling is also Gautam’s speciality."

he further explained how Gambhir’s approach is to overlook personal accolades and rely on his astute ability to identify match-winning players with ease.

"Cricket is a team game and there is no point in winning the orange cap, or purple cap if one is not eventually winning the tournament, as the goal of the team does not get settled then. If your team does well to lift the trophy, there will be at least 2-3 players who will be in the best form of their life.

"The team’s goal is to win the championship, and that can only happen when all the players of the team are on the same page, and everyone’s goal is the same. When that happens, it is not necessary to see who is the man of the series, as the important thing becomes whether you win the tournament or not.

"Gautam also understands x-factor in players and the talent in them very quickly. In a way, Gautam is bringing an x-factor with him too – recognising very quickly that this player can win matches for me and has the right attitude to do that.

"It is not just limited to someone having an average of 60 with the bat, or his strike rate is very good or he bowls really well. He also sees two more important things - whether a player is ready to fight for the team on ground, and if he stands with his team in difficult times," he said.

Gambhir’s immediate focus is to build up the T20I team since Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and Ravindra Jadeja retired, and also get ready for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series later this year in Australia.

After the completion of the Champions Trophy and World Test Championship in 2025, he will be faced with the task of navigating major transition periods in both ODIs and Tests.

The outcome of all this will heavily rely on the abilities Bisla highlighted of Gambhir the coach: providing unwavering support to players, relying on intuition, and quickly identifying match-winners.