Colombo: Ask Gautam Gambhir a question about a specific individual, and watch his eyes narrow, his nostrils flare gently, a touch of irritation creep into his expressions. Especially, but not only, if the individual in question hasn't had a good run.
On the eve of the 2012 Indian Premier League final, when Gambhir was asked about Sunil Narine’s superb contributions to Kolkata Knight Riders’ success, he had thundered, "I hate talking about individuals." It was no different on Friday afternoon as he reflected on the heavy defeat in the second One-Day International against Sri Lanka, and looked ahead to Saturday's third game.
The question, early in the piece, inevitably centred around Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary, seemingly locked in a battle for the No. 4 slot. Gambhir was asked if the long wait – Tiwary hasn't played an ODI since December, when he made a century against West Indies – might cause him to lose the mental edge. "It's not about individuals and I don't want to talk about individuals, about how Manoj is feeling," replied Gambhir. "How the team is doing is all that matters. Somewhere down the line, he will get an opportunity. Whenever Manoj gets that opportunity, he will be, and he should be, looking forward to it. But the important thing is whichever playing XI gets picked should do the job for the team. That is more important than talking about individuals at this stage."
Gambhir paused a little longer when he was asked why Rohit was struggling to do justice to his talent. "You can say he has been given a lot of opportunities but we still need to show some faith because he has done pretty well. Maybe not on this tour or in Australia, but before that, he got two Man-of-the-Series awards in the West Indies and in India," said Gambhir, after collecting his thoughts. "If you keep chopping and changing players like him who are talented, it will play with his confidence. He was unfortunate in the last game, you can drag the ball on, it can happen to the best of players.
"But you've got to see the bigger picture. If he is in your scheme of things for the next World Cup, you have to obviously go with him and try and give him as much as confidence as possible. If you are very comfortable with your batting and if you know you are batting well, then somewhere down the line you will score runs. Whenever we see Rohit batting in the nets, he is batting the best, to be honest, among all of us. It is just a matter of time before he is among the runs. He is a quality player and I see him scoring a lot of runs for India in the future."
The nine-wicket defeat in the second ODI at Hambantota, Gambhir said, had shaken the team out of its comfort zone. "It was a good wake-up call," said Gambhir. "You can't be complacent in international cricket. Sometimes, when you make 300-plus in your first game after a break and end up winning the game, you can take things for granted. But in international sport, every day is a different ballgame, a new day so you have to be on your toes all the time. Hopefully, the guys can get into this game thinking that now every game is an important game. We can't take Sri Lanka lightly at any stage, they are a very good side especially in their own backyard. It is important that we are be ready for this challenge tomorrow and whatever they throw at us, we should be up for it and should be able to give it back to them.
"Tomorrow's is a very crucial match. We need to look at it as a three-match series from now on. The conditions are different, it is very humid but once we go out, we must forget all that because as a professional cricketer, you have to try and get the results in your favour."