Exactly a decade after India won the 2011 World Cup at home, Gautam Gambhir, who cracked 97 in the final against Sri Lanka, talks to TOI about the multiple heroes of that triumph. Excerpts…
Do you look back and savour the moment?
I don’t look back at things because I think it’s time to move forward. Indian cricket can’t keep thinking how we won the World Cup in 2011. I said exactly the same thing that time too. It’s about looking ahead. We did something which we were supposed to achieve. We didn’t do something which we weren’t supposed to do. People can keep saying a lot of things and keep praising themselves, but I’m not that kind of a person. For me, what we’ve done is over. What we need to do is more important.
Last year, you tweeted that the triumph wasn’t about one man but the whole team, after a website hailed Dhoni’s famous six as the ‘shot that sealed the World Cup’…
I’m going to ask you the same question: do you think that only one individual won us the World Cup? If one individual could have won the World Cup, then India could have won all the World Cups till now. Unfortunately, in India, it’s only about worshipping certain individuals. I’ve never believed in that. In a team sport, individuals have no place.
It’s all about contributions. Can you forget Zaheer Khan’s contribution, what he did in the first spell of the final, where he bowled three maidens in a row? Can you forget what Yuvraj Singh did against Australia? Or for that matter, Sachin Tendulkar’s hundred against South Africa? Why do we keep remembering about one six? If one six can win you the World Cup, then I think Yuvraj Singh should have won six World Cups for India, because he hit six sixes in an over (against England in the 2007 World T20 in Durban).
No one talks about Yuvraj. He was the ‘man of the tournament’ in both 2007 and 2011. And we keep talking about that one six.
Was that 97 in the final the most special knock of your career? Do you feel it got the kind of attention it deserved?
It wasn’t the most memorable knock for me, because every knock of mine which has helped India win is memorable. Every run which has helped the country is more important. When you say that my 97 hasn’t been talked about, it’s the media which doesn’t speak about it. But the normal individuals, wherever I go, they talk about it.
And that’s my biggest achievement. Not the 97 I scored, but when people come up to me and say ‘thank you for the World Cup,’ that’s my biggest achievement. That’s the biggest medal which I’ve won. The media can talk about certain individuals, which it’ll always do. It doesn’t bother me one bit because I didn’t play for the media.
You got four half-centuries, so you were in good form in that World Cup…
I thought the guy in best touch was Yuvraj. And it is not about scoring runs. See, people will score runs. It’s about scoring runs at the right moment. When it comes to the knockouts, the crunch situations, then it’s about your mental toughness. I won’t degrade any opposition, runs are runs, but when you can get the runs in the quarterfinals, semis and the final, that sets you apart.
That is what decides what kind of form you are in, because you know that there’s no scope for a mistake. Therefore, I always say that Yuvraj was in very good touch. I remember in a league game, against Ireland in Bangalore, we were in a spot of bother, and he won us the game. He also got a half-century against England.
Despite being an opener, you played at No. 3, allowing Sachin and Sehwag to open. Was it difficult to adjust?
Except in one game, I played at No. 3 throughout. For me, more importantly, it’s not about the number. It’s about having the opportunity of playing in a World Cup final, which not many people have. It’s about what the team and the captain and team management want from you.
Even if they’d have wanted me to bat at No. 6 or 7, I would’ve happily done that. That’s how I look at a team sport. A lot of people have spoken about wanting to bat at certain positions. There’s no place for that kind of discussion in my dictionary.
How did the team cope with the pressure of immense home expectations?
I can’t talk on behalf of the other individuals. All I can say is that for me, the platform never mattered. For me, all that mattered was the contest between bat and ball. Had it not been Lasith Malinga, and had it been a Ranji Trophy bowler and I was playing a Ranji Trophy final, I would have prepared in the same way, because ultimately, it’s not bowler versus batsman, it’s ball versus bat.
I’m not good at doing many things but taking the platform or the occasion out of my mindset is easy for me, because any game that I’ve played, I’ve always played it with the same intensity. All that mattered was that I had to be better in that contest.
The build-up to the triumph started when India won the CB series in 2008. The team had begun to find a set of match-winners and was gelling well as a unit…
For me, it’s important that you can have a settled unit eight months before the World Cup. It always helps. If you keep experimenting, checking on players, you’ll always be very confused, because there’s so much talent in India. There will always be talent in India because of the amount of people, kids who play cricket.
However, if you keep checking out players, keep giving them opportunities, there’ll always be more competition. The more the competition, the more will be the insecurity.
I’m not against giving opportunity to players, but I’m always in favour of giving enough opportunities to players to test them, and then probably test the next one. You can’t test any player just by giving him two or three games and then you turn around and say: ‘There’s so much competition for places.’ It’s good to have competition for places, but it’s even worse to have insecurity among the players. Our squad was pretty settled around eight months before the World Cup, and that is why people could go out and express themselves.
Most of the guys in that squad knew that they would be a part of the World Cup team.