New Delhi: With the success in the Indian Premier League behind him, Gautam Gambhir talks to NDTV's Srinivasan Jain about cricket, captaincy and life away from being on the field.
NDTV: Hello and welcome to this NDTV special with the very versatile, talented, Delhi boy-turned-honorary-Kolkatan, Gautam Gambhir. Thank you for joining us, and many many congratulations on that win.
Gautam Gambhir: Thank you so much.
NDTV: Now, Delhiites know how to party, but, Kolkata seems to take it to another level.
Gautam Gambhir: No, I think Delhiites know how to party, but Kolkata has people who know how to celebrate. I think that's the main difference. The way they had celebrated - it was tremendous, I mean we never expected that people would come in so many numbers on the streets.
NDTV: Were you blown away a bit? I mean, one knows that Calcutta has that reputation, but, this was like, unbelievable.
Gautam Gambhir: I've seen in the past as well, after winning the World Cup, all these things happen. But the IPL, that kind of a celebration, honestly I never expected that these many people will come on the roads and celebrate like this. But, then the kind of love and affection that they've shown throughout the tournament, I think; they had come in numbers to support us, even during the game. So, I think, though it was a bit of a surprise, but it wasn't I think, overawed by the situation.
NDTV: And they've completely embraced you. You're now a Honorary Kolkatan, much to the disappointment of your Delhi fans and following.
Gautam Gambhir: You know, I've been saying that ever since we've been picked by KKR, I think the way they have shown their trust in me and the way they have supported me because there was a lot of talk that, are they gonna support me after Dada not being picked by KKR. But, the way they have supported me, given me, shown a lot of faith in me; and that when I walk onto the field, whether as a captain or as a batsman, the kind of support I've gotten.
NDTV: You've never had to face any of that whole, Dada legacy at all?
Gautam Gambhir: No, never. I think there was a lot of talk that I had to face all that thing. But no, never once in the last 2 years have I seen. I think they supported me, more than any other..
NDTV: But was it a hard decision to leave Delhi in 2011, when you got picked up by the KnigShakht Riders? You were actually the hottest pick that year. Shah Rukh paid something like 2.4 million dollars for you. But, was that a tough decision?
Gautam Gambhir: That was not my call, I think that was Delhi's decision. They were the ones who didn't want to retain me. They didn't want to go; they wanted to retain only one and that was Viru, so that meant me going into the auction. And, after that, I think I realized that whatever happens, happens for good. I am very happy, very lucky that I've been part of KKR because, the best 2 years of my cricketing career and IPL; though I played for Delhi for the first three years, but, I've never been so relaxed and so.. I've never enjoyed that much cricket than with Calcutta and with KKR.
NDTV: So there was no looking back. You said once that 'you like to be in your comfort zone' and Delhi was in a way the perfect comfort zone. Because it was Delhi, it was Viru. So..
Gautam Gambhir: Sometimes it's important to get out of that comfort zone and I think, try new things and sometimes you can express yourself better. When you come out of your comfort zone, you can express yourself in front of the whole world and there was no better stage to express yourself as a batsman and as a leader, than IPL. So maybe coming out of my comfort zone was the better thing for me, because, then I had all the freedom to express myself in every way possible.
NDTV: And, what was it like to capture the team? You had, quite a few stalwarts already in place, you had Kallis, you had Brett Lee. Brett Lee actually had some great things to say about you as a captain - he said you're a very 'structured captain'. I don't know what he meant by that.
Gautam Gambhir: I think you need to be a leader, not a captain. You may have seen a lot of captains in this country, but, the most important thing is to be a leader. And the next question I think I need to clarify is that you will next ask me what is the difference between a captain and a leader? I think a captain is someone who captains on the cricket field but, most of the leadership that happens is off the cricket field. It's very easy to captain people on the cricket field, but if you can start leading them off the cricket field, and show them that trust, what you have in them..
NDTV: Can you give me an example of that?
Gautam Gambhir: I've always believed that I've gone to people one on one, I've spoken to them not only on the cricket field, but off the cricket field as well. I've always stood by them, not only on the cricket field but off the cricket field as well. If I can do that, then it makes my job easier on the cricket field because, they need to have faith in me as well, on the cricket field and off it, because cricket is just one part of the overall thing. I think that a leader is someone that needs to make an impact on, off the cricket field and in their lives as well. If a youngster can come up to me and share his problems, or share his experiences or share something that he does off cricket, that can obviously help you build a better relation with- one on one, and that can help you captain him on the cricket field.
NDTV: Did it help to have people like Brett Lee on board? Did you ever discuss strategy with him or with Kallis or any of that?
Gautam Gambhir: We've discussed strategies with everyone, I think it's always a collective decision. It's not only about Brett Lee. I've been very fortunate and honored to lead a people who are very motivated and want to do well for the team. And, that is something that I've been saying throughout, that KKR was all about 'WE' it was never about 'ME', or Brett Lee or Shah Rukh Khan. That is what has made KKR a very successful team. This year and even last year, people have been talking a lot about this year, that we won, but, everything started last year. We finished in the top 4 which was a huge thing for us after the first..
NDTV: Yeah, after the first 2 seasons, coming into the top 4 was a fantastic thing.
Gautam Gambhir: Yeah, and we've played well last year and throughout this year as well. It was not only about this year. So I think that I was very fortunate to lead some of the very motivated people who always wanted to give everything for their team. Really fortunate and honoured.
NDTV: Now, when you say that there's no one person, there's a 'WE', Shah Rukh, I've heard you say in other interviews as well that he doesn't interfere in the cricketing part of it at all. Is that true? Because, he seems so enthusiastic and hands - on.
Gautam Gambhir: You must've heard a lot earlier in the first 3 years when KKR wasn't doing well, that Sharukh interfered a lot and all those things. But, I'll be very honest to you, not once in my tenure as a captain or since the time I took over, has Shah Rukh ever interfered. I think there have even been times where he has not even attended the meetings as well.
NDTV: Oh really? Never?
Gautam Gambhir: Yeah, he's been a.. He's someone who has attended meetings but, he's been very clear in his thoughts that cricketing matters will be taken care of, handled by the people who know cricket. He is someone, who at maximum, would talk about life apart from cricket. Or, he would only share his experiences. Because, he comes from a background which is also a performing background. So, he knows the high's and low's of what an individual goes through. So maybe when things have not gone KKR's way, he's been someone who..
NDTV: He comes into the dressing room, and he just kind of gives a ..
Gautam Gambhir: Yes, he comes but he will never talk about cricket, not about it once. He would only put his hand around your shoulder and give you that confidence that life still moves on.
NDTV: Don't take it badly.
Gautam Gambhir: Yes, the sun will rise again tomorrow. There will be a sunrise tomorrow as well. So let's move on, let's keep looking forward. I still remember that when we lost against Kings XI, we were chasing a 12 and we were needing 12 balls and 13 runs, everyone was very disappointed. He was the first one in the dressing room and he was the one cheering everyone on, because there was still a long way to go in that tournament. So that is a big help for me, because he has been an inspiration, as well. Especially, he's the one who's seen the lows in life and now he's seen the highs as well.
NDTV: So he brings all hat experience to the table.
Gautam Gambhir: Absolutely. And he has never interfered in cricket. All that he brings to the table is his experiences and what he's gone through and how he looks at life. Which is very important for any team to develop.
NDTV: Plus of course, he's got all those great dance moves and all that cheering action happening. From the gallery, which all of us can see, but you may not be able to see that because you were out on the pitch.
Gautam Gambhir: He's been very low profile this year since only in the playoffs and then in the Mumbai game and in the playoffs and after the finals. So he deserves every bit of it. I think he's taken a lot of flak from every quarter, in the first 3 years when KKR was not doing well. So, whatever excitement he's shown, I think he deserves it.
NDTV: Fully deserves.
Gautam Gambhir: Absolutely, he deserves it.
NDTV: What is the first thing he said to you, after the finals, after that last very tense over?
Gautam Gambhir: Nothing nothing. He doesn't even remember what happened in the last over because he was in that zone where he was just thinking, he was just praying maybe. So, obviously it was tense..
NDTV: But what was your state of mind? Are you a nervous by stander by the way? When you're watching from the locker, from the..?
Gautam Gambhir: Sometimes, you're nervous obviously anybody would be. But, when you're captaining this side, or when you're leading this side, you can't show those nervous things to your colleagues as well. So, you need to control your emotions, deep inside. Yes, anybody would be nervous, because I've always felt that when you're chasing 190, you don't want a situation where you go till the last over and end up not crossing that line. I was always having this feeling that if we go till that stage, God just help us cross that line, which was very important, because we were..
NDTV: You looked remarkably calm. I mean, every time the camera cut to you, you looked very zen. But, probably inside, you must've been going crazy.
Gautam Gambhir: It happens with everyone. Such a big game and we wanted to do it for the people of Kolkata. They've supported us big time. So I had to be calm; I can't reflect my nervous energy on other people who have to go into bat next.
NDTV: You know, one of the things you've also managed to do is that Kolkata was making a lot of news off-pitch action as well. You seem to have sobered the team a bit. Is that true?
Gautam Gambhir: Oh, that was my first priority when I took over as captain, because for the first 3 years, it was all about KKR being the most glamorous side, off the cricket field there were a lot of talks. But, my top most priority was that people should talk about KKR not as the 'off field side', but as someone who does well on the cricket field, because KKR's first job is to play good cricket. And that was my top most priority. And we had a very good structure since last year, I think. Since I've taken over as captain, I've had fantastic support of someone like Vijay (Dahiya) who's been my first Ranji Trophy coach when I first made my debut, and then we won the Ranji Trophy when he was the Delhi coach, and then he's been the assistant coach with KKR, Wasim Akram's been tremendous, Trevor Bayliss, have got into the system. He's been someone who..
NDTV: He's quite a high power team actually, so..
Gautam Gambhir: Yeah. They all believe in the culture which we need to carry forward because whether we guys stay or not, I think the team will keep going. And, the one thing that we want from KKR, is that whether people stay or not, the culture still needs to be going forward.
NDTV: KKR managed to stay out of the headlines but, quite a few other players and teams were making headlines. Was that an unfortunate distraction, do you think?
Gautam Gambhir: Never for us. I think we were very focused. Because it..
NDTV: Don't you think that it gives a bad reputation to the IPL and that there needs to be some kind of thinking that teams need to do, or players need to do?
Gautam Gambhir: I think that I've always believed that you can't keep blaming IPL and BCCI for everything. Whatever happens off of the cricket field, no one can control that, it's an individual decision, what individual wants to do. Because, IPL gives a lot of individuals a chance to express their talent on the world stage and playing with some of the legends of the game or sometimes against great players. So, it's an individual's decision, where they want to go. Whether they want to show their talent on the world stage or they want to go the other way.
NDTV: So who should the buck stop with, then? It should stop with the players who couldn't control themselves, or who..
Gautam Gambhir: Absolutely, I think it's the franchise's, I think the franchise needs to control their players. I've always believed that IPL and BCCI cannot control everyone, cannot monitor everyone 24/7. So, I think that if a certain player makes a mistake, IPL or BCCI needs to punish franchise very heavily because,..
NDTV: It's the franchises' you think that should be penalized.
Gautam Gambhir: Absolutely, absolutely, because it's the job of the franchise to control their players.
NDTV: And the player as well!
Gautam Gambhir: Yeah, the player has to be penalized severely. But, at the same time the franchise needs to be penalized as well. Because, franchise is someone who can take care, look after the players. Not, the job of the BCCI.
NDTV: Right. One of the things that people say, because of the nature of IPL - it's a combination of sports and entertainment, and then you have those after-parties and stuff. I don't know whether you go to any. Do you go to any after-party?
Gautam Gambhir: No, I'm not a party kind of a person. I think I'm pretty..
NDTV: For a Delhi boy, that's unusual. But, people say that it's that kind of culture, which creates those situations where you party till late hours and then you get into a situation where maybe, that even affects your performance. So, it's kind of built into the culture of IPL, and that's why the whole league got a bit of flak. Do you think that's fair?
Gautam Gambhir: You can't control all these things. I think that if someone has to party, he will party, regardless. Whether there are parties, or no parties. You can't stop people from going to a night club, after the game. If they want to go, whether there are parties or no parties. So a lot of things I said, depends on an individual; whether he wants to cross that line. When he comes to IPL, top most priority is cricket. If his top most priority is going to after parties and drinking and all those things, so I don't think he deserves to be there, I don't think he deserves to be a part of any team or the IPL. For me, I think you need to prioritize what you want. When you come to the IPL, whether it's a foreign player, or a domestic player, for you what IPL mean, so..
NDTV: Are you a.. I mean, you sound like a pretty strict captain. You keep an eye on them off the pitch or?
Gautam Gambhir: You know, honestly I'm not someone who would keep monitoring players, but at the same time if someone misbehaves, or does these kind of things, bringing bad names to team - because the team is always bigger than the individual; I personally feel that if anybody would do this with KKR, I think we'll be the first ones to take severe action, against an individual.
NDTV: But overall, do you think it doesn't take away anything from IPL as a brand, or as an entity you think it's a fantastic thing? It's giving an opportunity to young players. It's still producing good cricket. So, all this talk of ban IPL and all you think, is an over-reaction?
Gautam Gambhir: I think we've so many fantastic matches, we've seen so many competitive games here year. This shows the quality of cricket that's being played in IPL this time around. A lot of games have gone to the last over. IPL has given us a lot of good things as well. Let's stop criticizing or stop talking negative about IPL. I think Indian cricket has been fortunate because they've got some players who have gone out to play for India from IPL, and done really well for the country. And IPL - we keep talking about a 'bigger pool of players' that India needs to have a bigger pool of players because of the amount of cricket we play, I think we need to keep rotating. I think IPL has given us that bigger pool of players.
NDTV: Right, yeah. Look at your own team! Look at Bisla.
Gautam Gambhir: I'm very happy that I gave that opportunity to Bisla, otherwise no one could have seen what Bisla could've done, you know? It gives him that platform of, and other domestic players and cricketers to show that talent on the world stage. Someone like Parvinder Awana, who did well for Delhi, who did well for Kings XI, now he's playing for India A. That's Indian cricket. So let's stop talking negative, or thinking negative about IPL.
NDTV: And, see it as a platform to..
Gautam Gambhir: Platform and let's think positive. When it comes to people banning IPL, I think everybody needs to know that there are many other bigger issues in this country to resolve. Rather than talking about banning IPL, I think people don't get elected to talk about IPL, the get elected so that they can serve the nation better instead of talking about the IPL. People who can take care of the IPL, will take care of it.
NDTV: That's like a flash of vintage Gambhir! Are you somewhat mellower Gambhir now, or is there still a lot of anger still in there? I mean, I got a flash of it just now. You had a bit of a Mahela (Jayawardena) conflict. That was one kind of, one..
Gautam Gambhir: Well, I've got my priorities absolutely right. To be honest, for me cricket has always been something which has been my top most priority and I think that people who've been selected, or people who have been given the job of continuing their job for the best of their abilities, are they interfering in many other things. KKR had made me the skipper for KKR, I think it's my moral responsibility to be honest and give everything possible to what I have been appointed as.
NDTV: No no no. Of course. You've been very focused on your cricket, and it's been a fantastic rise; I mean, you've just been maturing. Vice-captain of the cricket team, and then subsequently, captaining KKR, before that even briefly Daredevils. But, I was asking you about your own legendary anger management. You've spoken about this in the past. Are you still an angry young man or?
Gautam Gambhir: I think the only time I show my emotions and anger is on the cricket field, otherwise I've mellowed down. And with age, I think, with age you always end up mellowing down. And I think that's important because there have been situations where I've crossed those lines and I still remember that incident that happened with Shane Watson.
NDTV: Where you elbowed him in Delhi.
Gautam Gambhir: Yeah. And after that, I apologized to everyone also. I couldn't have crossed that line also because I was in such good form, I couldn't have let my team down.
NDTV: You were in great make.
Gautam Gambhir: Yeah, and I've matured, I've learned. Life is all about learning from your mistakes. So I've done that, and I've always felt that not at any point do you cross the line. You can put your point across, and whenever you need to show your emotions, show them otherwise there's no point in showing your emotions off of the cricket field.
NDTV: So, when you say you've learned from all the ups and downs you've had, and one of the big down's was 2007, when you got dropped from the World Cup, and you spoke about how you almost felt like giving up cricket. What was the lesson from there? Because that was probably; was that one of your lowest points?
Gautam Gambhir: Well, I can say that I deserved every bit of it to be a part of that 2007 World Cup squad.
NDTV: You still believe it?
Gautam Gambhir: Absolutely, I still think I should have been part of that World Cup team. Though it was the lowest phase of my life, but, sometimes, I think, I was not someone who lacked from too many opportunities or too many other things to do. And I think, the only thing which I could've done, was to play cricket because it was a …
NDTV: But did you reach that point where you actually were thinking, could this be it? Maybe I need to look for other options?
Gautam Gambhir: Yeah, when things are not going your way, ask any cricketer who wants to go on to play the World Cup for his country, that's the biggest honour. And you've been playing consistently for your country and suddenly you'r pulled off the World Cup, it's hard breaking. I think, at one stage, I decided I'm not going to play this game anymore because, I'm done and dusted. But, later on I decided, that what else can I do? I don't have that many things to do. Because I'm not good at any other things, and if I
NDTV: This is your main skill, this is what you are good at.
Gautam Gambhir: Yeah, this is the only thing I'm good at. I'm not good in studies, I'm not good in any other thing to be honest. So sometimes.. it was a blessing in disguise. Then I realized that if I leave cricket now, I don't wanna be called a chicken who just ran away from not getting selected. So that was the time I had to pull myself up.
NDTV: You started playing domestic cricket.
Gautam Gambhir: And I said, look, whatever happens, whether I get to play for India or not, the only thing that will give me happiness is to keep scoring runs. Whatever level I play, whether I play for my club, whether I play for Delhi, or whichever team I play for, I need to keep scoring runs.
NDTV: You're just gonna give 100 per cent. I think you first started with Deodhar trophy and then you went back to Ranji after that and then you kind of worked your way back in.
Gautam Gambhir: Yeah, I played under 14's, under 19's, under 16's, I've come through he ranks. So when things are not going your way you have to go back to the basics. So, ultimately for any cricketer, or batsmen, you ask them the biggest happiness or the maximum happiness he gets, is when he scores runs. So, I decided that look, forget about whatever level I've played cricket for, for a club, or for Delhi; whichever team I'm going to play for, the only happiness I'm going to get is by scoring runs. So I just need to keep scoring runs, wherever I play for. So I made my goals very simple, and very clear - I just want to go out there and score runs for the team that I play for.
NDTV: And what a fantastic comeback it was! But tell me, did that whole experience make you insecure at all?
Gautam Gambhir: Yeah, I'm still very insecure. I'm a very, very insecure guy when it comes to my profession. And my insecurities are far more than my securities. Even now to be honest..
NDTV: Why is that?
Gautam Gambhir: That's how I've been, that's how I've played my cricket too, and ever since I've been in under-14, everyone's always told me that 'if you don't score runs in this game, you will be dropped.' That's what I've heard ever since the time I was growing up as a kid. That every game was the last game for me. So even at this stage, if I don't score runs in 2-3 games, I start getting that feeling that I'm going to get dropped.
NDTV: Really? But, isn't that just pressure you're putting on yourself?
Gautam Gambhir: Yeah, that has gone so much deep inside my system that I've started living with it. Even if I try to take it out of my system, I'm just not able to because for the last 14 years, it's nearly 16 years that I've kept it inside my system. There have been so many experiences in the past where people have come up to me and said 'this could be the last game'.
NDTV: Really? Even after you played international cricket?
Gautam Gambhir: Yeah, even after that.
NDTV: Is it possible to ask you what kind of people? Are these people within the cricketing establishment?
Gautam Gambhir: Someone in 2007, I remember, when I was dropped from the World Cup and there was a game in Chennai, someone said that if I don't score runs in this game, I will not be part of the 2007 world cup squad, and I didn't get runs in that game, and I wasn't part of the 2007 World Cup Squad. So these are the experiences that have gone so deep inside of my, system. That's why I say I think my insecurities are far bigger than my securities.
NDTV: Wow. That's amazing Gautam. I didn't realize that someone like you, who's seen as a successful cricketer, talked about as potential captain of the Test team, still is carrying all of that inside you? Is that preventing you from enjoying the game?
Gautam Gambhir: I don't think I enjoy too much of cricket, to be honest. I think for me, cricket is something which is my priority, I want to go out there and give my best, and try and get the results in my favour, but, one thing that has helped me in this is, whatever I have gone through, I try to not give the same to people who were playing with me. I think whenever I've lead any side..
NDTV: You just keep it cool?
Gautam Gambhir: I've always tried to make my players feel really secure, because..
NDTV: But, you don't, I mean this is almost taking away the enjoyment for you! I mean, it becomes too tense and too stressful..
Gautam Gambhir: It's not about me - whether I enjoy or not. Till the team is doing well, I think I'm happy with that. And one thing that has helped me is that, if I can make the other person feel secure, because what I've gone through, I don't want other people to go through that. If I can give them that experience or give them that platform, and go out and express themselves to the best of their ability, then I've done my job.
NDTV: Then you're happy?
Gautam Gambhir: Absolutely.
NDTV: Tell me about Viru does he at least relax you when you are out there?
Gautam Gambhir: Ya we do relax each other because we do the toughest job in cricket. Opening the batting specially in Test cricket. It's the toughest job for any opening pair. So having him especially when I have such an understanding with him, not only on the field but off the field. It helps both of us.
NDTV: What do you guys talk about?
Gautam Gambhir: We are different people to be honest it really depends on that particular day and it depends on that person's mood.
NDTV: Is it like a cricketing talk or do you like to divert your mind?
Gautam Gambhir: Sometimes you talk something different because you are under so much of pressure you are playing against the best opponents you are batting difficult conditions so if you still keep talking about cricket then obviously you keep putting pressure on yourself. So the best is to talk something else and try and relax each other by whatever way maybe just by saying a word or maybe by giving a pep talk to someone, so it's very different .
NDTV: I actually read somewhere that you sing as well?
Gautam Gambhir: No I don't. I think Viru does.
NDTV: No, no. You said both of you sing and you often sing the same song?
Gautam Gambhir: I am too intense to sing to be honest. I am too intense within myself.
NDTV: But Viru sings?
Gautam Gambhir: Ya he does, because he is a kind of character who is really relaxed because everyone is nervous .
NDTV: What does he sing?
Gautam Gambhir: Anything. Bollywood, devotional, anything, spiritual songs anything.
NDTV: Out there in the middle of the pitch?
Gautam Gambhir: Out in the middle of the pitch.
NDTV: Gautam Gambhir, potential captain of the test team? You must have heard the talk.
Gautam Gambhir: I've heard the talk. But as I said, a captain is only as good as his team. I think it's a successful team that makes a successful captain. It's not a successful captain that makes a successful team.
NDTV: But, do you feel you are ready for it?
Gautam Gambhir: Absolutely, it's the biggest honor. Ready for it, ready for the responsibility of the challenge, because, you want to test yourself in different challenges as well. That is where your mental toughness and your character will be tested. So as an individual if you want to grow in life you want to test yourself in different conditions and in different responsibilities as well. But for me I am a very strong believer. Let's stop talking about who is going to be a potential captain and who is going to be what.
NDTV: And it's also not fair to Dhoni? Because Dhoni is doing a good job?
Gautam Gambhir: Otherwise also I think I am a very strong believer and let's talk about building a team. Designation is just a word. You don't need a designation to bring a change, you need a fire in an individual to bring that change. So let's take the team forward whoever captains, weather I captain or Dhoni Captains. Or whoever it is?
NDTV: But when you are talking about a captain and a leader. Do you think Dhoni is a leader?
Gautam Gambhir: That's very individual to be honest I think he's done a good job, record speaks for him. He's done brilliantly for Indian cricket and all the three forms of the game he's taken over when things weren't that great. And I think its all about taking the team forward and whoever leads the side. His job or whoever leads the team job is is to take the team forward or take the country forward its what it is all about.
NDTV: I sent out a message on twitter before this interview saying if you have any messages for Gautam please send them in and almost everyone said that why doesn't he smile? As you were saying is it all this pressure?
Gautam Gambhir: Could be I think I am very intense when I am on the field. I am very intense and that works for me.
NDTV: You are intense even now by the way?
Gautam Gambhir: Intense doesn't mean that I am not relaxed. That's my personality and I don't want to change it for people. Sometimes people have asked me this question why are you so aggressive on the field? And I have gone onto answer that if that aggressive energy I can pass onto my colleagues then I get the results in my favour. Because I don't go onto the field to make people happy that he's someone who's always smiling and he's someone who's always relaxed. I would rather be called as someone who is intense and get the results in my favour than being called someone who really enjoys his cricket.
NDTV: Gautam Gambhir, thank you very much indeed.
Story first published on: Saturday, 02 June 2012 08:01 IST