After the well fought out elimination match against the Mumbai Indians on Wednesday, Kolkata Knight Riders skipper Gautam Gambhir emerged a satisfied but broken man. His shoulder, a problem since the World Cup final against Sri Lanka, acted up again that evening and now the stand-in captain’s chances of leading India in West Indies is under serious doubt. The following interview contains some of the answers to the questions that have been doing the rounds since Thursday.
There is speculation as to when did the injury occur. Your take...
I felt some discomfort during the Word Cup final, while running between the wickets. It didn’t seem major as it wasn’t very painful at that time. Any professional cricketer, playing all three formats, will tell you that these niggles are part of his system.
But would you say that it could have aggravated during the IPL?
Maybe. There was an instance during Sunday's clash against the Mumbai Indians when I threw the ball from deep point and felt pain in my right shoulder. Even then it didn't feel it was major. I thought it would be fine with a bit of icing or at the most I'll get a scan done in Mumbai.
So, you didn't carry any injury into the IPL?
Absolutely not. Any modern cricketer understands that by feigning or risking an injury he is only jeopardising his career. For example, if I continue to play with an injury, I know I will abort my career. It is imaginative to say that I was covering my injury to play in the IPL. There were also suggestions that because of my dodgy shoulder I even fielded inside the 30-yard circle. Anybody who understands cricket would know that a captain has to constantly speak to his bowlers and needs to be around.
After coming to Mumbai, you had scans done.
Yeah, I had a MRI in Mumbai and physio Andrew Leipus got the report. We didn't discuss it as I was preparing for Wednesday's game, which was a knockout. It will be misleading to blame the BCCI, Andrew or the KKR management for this. I don't think anybody intended to cover up things here. In any competitive sport, you will be found out if you have a major physical challenge.
Don’t you think that the message that comes out is you played for your franchise despite the injury?
I played with discomfort without realising the gravity of my injury. As a leader, my team needed me but to say I preferred club over country is ridiculous. I know how hard I have worked for my India cap and what it means to me. Not many people know that in 2008, I played the Ranji Trophy final against Uttar Pradesh with a swollen left hand. It was so bad that I could barely hold the bat but by God’s grace I got a hundred and we won. Earlier this year, I played the last Test of the series against South Africa in Cape Town with an injured left hand. The swelling was so bad that I could barely wear a glove. I am proud of the 93 and 64 that I got on one of the most difficult pitches. It is embarrassing to publicise my commitment, but I have no choice.
Even the stroke that you got out to against MI isn't quite you (Gambhir tried to slog-sweep Harbhajan but missed the line)?
It had nothing to do with my shoulder. I wanted to get on with things as we had lost Jacques Kallis and I thought I was the best person to take on the spinners. It is absurd to connect the choice of stroke to my injury.
How big a setback could missing out on a tour be, where you'd lead your country?
Oh it’s a big setback, something that can never be compensated with. I am so keen to lead the side that even during the breaks between IPL matches I'd discuss with (KKR and India teammate) Yusuf Pathan our strategy for conditions in the West Indies. Now let us see how it goes. I hear there would be a fitness test and only post that things will be decided.
Do you think the controversy puts to shade the good deeds by KKR?
This controversy was about an individual - Gautam Gambhir, whereas the good deeds are about a team — the Kolkata Knight Riders.
I don't think an individual, whether it is me or anybody else, can tower over a team performance. KKR finishing in the top-4 is a step forward and I am proud of the team and support staff.
(Dinesh Chopra works for ESPN SportsCenter)