With faith in his Knights, Gambhir leads by example
Gautam Gambhir has done what Sourav Ganguly couldn't. Since taking over the captaincy last season, he has led Kolkata Knight Riders with aplomb.
If there's someone who deserves credit for Kolkata Knight Riders' success in the fifth edition of the Indian Premier League, it is their captain.
Gautam Gambhir has done what Sourav Ganguly couldn't. He has led the star-studded outfit to the final of the lucrative T20 competition.
The Kolkata side was never short of stars, their star owner Shah Rukh Khan always ensuring the team had the best players and the best support staff to boot. What they lacked was application.While the first three seasons were forgettable for the high-profile franchise, things changed for good from the fourth season, with Gambhir taking over the captaincy.
Image: Gautam Gambhir
'No individual is bigger than the team'
The former Delhi Daredevils player took his team to fourth place last year, and on Tuesday Gambhir ensured his side booked a place in the final at the expense of his former franchise.
The 31-year-old has led Knight Riders from the front. Well, literally!
An aggregate of 588 from 16 matches -- with six half centuries -- make him the tournament's second highest run scorer, behind Royal Challengers Bangalore's Chris Gayle (733 runs).
With just one match for Knight Riders' to play, it is impossible for their captain to beat the West Indies player in the race for the Orange cap. Not that it matters to Gambhir. Asked to single out about any individual for the team's success, he has more often than not reiterated that oft-repeated line.
"No individual is bigger than the team."
'We have been handling the pressure well this season'
On this occasion, though, there was more to it.
"If tomorrow I feel I'm not hitting the ball well and have to give way to someone who can do the job, I'll be the first one to sit out," explained Gambhir, after Tuesday's victory in the first play-off match in Pune.
"Till I'm there it will always be about Kolkata Knight Riders and not any individual," he added. For a team that seldom stitched a few wins together before, Knight Riders were amazingly consistent this season.
Asked what worked in their favour, Gambhir was categorical.
"We have been handling the pressure well this season," he explained."We have backed our core group of players to the hilt. When we were losing, say in the match against Kings XI Punjab, we could have easily changed our squad and made harsh decisions, but we didn't," he added, proceeding to elaborate on his point.
'It was just a matter of time before Yusuf did something magical'
"The most important thing is to stick to that core group of players, to show enough faith in them so that they can stand up and deliver in crunch situations. It's about keeping your trust in the people in the dressing room. It's not about changing and chopping as it takes the team nowhere.
"I have a lot of faith in all my players."
A player who justified Gambhir's relentless faith in him on Tuesday was Yusuf Pathan.
Having held on to his place despite doing precious little so far in the tournament, the elder Pathan hit a 21-ball 40 not out, which proved decisive in the final analysis against Delhi.
"I was always questioned regarding Yusuf's place in the side, and I always mentioned that it is just a matter of time that he will do something magical, at a time when it matters. That's exactly what he has done," declared the proud captain.
Image: Yusuf Pathan
'If we play to our potential, we will be the team to beat'
With Knight Riders a win away from the ultimate glory, Gambhir was anything but perturbed. The fact that all this success would mean zilch should his team fall short in the decider didn't seem to worry him.
"It is just another game of cricket to be honest," he explained.
"If you go into the final thinking that this is the final, and all that stuff, then you are only putting pressure on yourself," he added.
Having said so, he was confidence about his team's chances in the title decider."It doesn't make a difference as to which team we play against in the final. I've been saying this from the start of the tournament that if we play to our potential, we will be the team to beat."