Tyson has grown since we met the last time. The four-month Bull Mastiff pup is now two years old and stands close to three feet on all fours. His master Gautam Gambhir, having just crossed 35, has grown back into his role as Test opener from being Indian Premier League’s champion skipper with Kolkata Knight Riders.
Before flying off to Kolkata to join the Delhi team for their Ranji Trophy match against Karnataka at Eden, Gambhir spoke to HT about his second comeback to the Test team, his cricket philosophy and the upcoming England series. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:
You wanted this so badly…
Any opportunity you get to play for your country and wear that blue cap is an honour. Comebacks are difficult, it’s a great feeling. Tests are special, the format closest to my heart.
How was it different from England?
The conditions were different in England when I made a comeback in 2014. I have made a few adjustments to my batting. This time I got more match practice. I played three Duleep Trophy games before playing in Indore. It gives you a lot of confidence. When you feel comfortable about your game, you are in a happy space, feel at peace with yourself.
What kept you going in the last two years?
It’s about being hungry, being passionate, doing things that you can control and try and score as many runs as possible. That was one thing that kept me going. Platforms do not matter. Even now it really doesn’t matter, whichever team I am playing for. Till the time I have that hunger, I will keep going and try and get as many runs as I can.
You have worked hard on your fitness…
I am a very strong believer in one thing. The more physically fit you are, the more mentally fit you get. In today’s world, any sport is a physical game. It’s no more just about technique or a skill-oriented thing. Whether it’s Test cricket or any other format, it is very important to keep working hard on your fitness. The fitter you are it helps you take the right decisions under pressure.
Fitness routines keep changing. The physical stuff is getting far more advanced. There are far better techniques now. These keep evolving. If you ask me the same question one year from now, it will obviously be more advanced and better.
When I started playing I was about 10 or 12, never thought of following a particular diet. Now you realise how important it is to eat right. These small things have made a huge difference. It is about how much protein you need every day and what supplements you need so that it helps in your recovery and fitness programme.
You have always asked for result oriented-wickets as Delhi Ranji skipper. You could have opted for batting tracks and made a stronger case for the selectors?
That’s the way the sport is meant to be played. It’s about getting results. It’s about winning games. I have always maintained that you have the best exhibition of cricket where you have tracks which have something for the bowlers as well. You don’t want to see a game where both teams score 600 runs.
I want young kids in the Delhi side to experience the habit of winning. There is nothing wrong in losing. Till the time you don’t take yourself out of that comfort zone and try and win, you will never really test yourself. Sport is meant to be played in an aggressive way and it’s all about winning, putting team ahead of self.
You have played under Anil Kumble as skipper. How was the experience this time?
Anil Bhai is someone who I respect thoroughly because he was a players’ captain, a bowlers’ captain. He was a great man manager and I wish he gets even more success as coach than he got as player. Whatever little I have seen of him as coach in the two Tests, I can assure you Indian cricket is in very safe hands.
The feeling after you reentered the dressing room…
A winning team and a winning dressing room is always a happy place to be in. People are a lot comfortable. There is far less pressure on you as against going into a dressing room which is struggling. I have played a lot of cricket with these guys and when you walk into a dressing room that is happy, it immediately makes you feel comfortable and you can go out there and express yourself in a far better way.
Your take on the England series up next…
England is going to be a very good series. They are going to come hard at you. Five Tests are a very long time. Teams can make a comeback unlike when you play a three-Test series where if you start well, the other team has very little time to recover.
You got to be really strong mentally. You have to weather the storm, see off spells. They have a quality attack. People like James Anderson, Stuart Broad have played in India and have done reasonably well. Selection is not in my hands. I have two Ranji games now and will try and score runs and win matches.
Will turning tracks continue to be the order of the day?
If you play on a spinning track, anyone can be a threat. On a good wicket, quality bowlers make the difference. On a rank turner, things can change very quickly. England have spinners like Moeen Ali and they would be thinking they would get turning tracks here. It’s going to be a lot tougher than New Zealand. They have a lot of depth in batting, have quality all-rounders. It will be a series a lot of players would want to be part of.