GAUTAM GAMBHIR dropped out of the race for the opening batsman's slot for the Test series Down Under due to a mysterious shoulder injury. But the Delhi captain cleared the air surrounding his injury at the Wankhede stadium on Monday.
"I was told by the doctor then that I cannot throw for three weeks," Gambhir said after Delhi's practice ahead of the Ranji Trophy final. "So as a precautionary measure I was rested for one match (against Karnataka) and played the very next match."
While announcing India's squad for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy on December 12, the Indian cricket board had said that the Delhi captain would be out for three weeks but the southpaw made a comeback barely after a week.
"I never had any problem while batting but wasn't allowed to throw the ball," Gambhir said. "So I was fielding either in the slips or at silly point till last week."
So, has the shoulder recovered enough for Gambhir, who has been in prolific form with the bat, to be considered for the selection for the tri-series?
"It's improved a lot and now I can throw from a distance of 80 to 85 yards," he said.
Selection issues apart, the Delhi captain was looking forward to playing the Ranji Trophy final against Uttar Pradesh from Wednesday.
"Ever since a cricketer in India makes his first-class debut, all he thinks of is playing a Ranji Trophy final," Gambhir, who will play his maiden Ranji Trophy final, said. "So I am happy to be playing one and hopefully end up on the winning side."
In fact, no member of the 15-member Delhi squad - sans veteran Rahul Sanghvi - has ever played a Ranji final. However, during their first practice session ahead of what would be the first Ranji final at a neutral venue, the whole camp appeared to be a relaxed lot.
Indeed they were so relaxed that most of them enjoyed kite flying during the nets on the eve of the Makar Sankranti.
It all started when Mayank Tehlan caught hold of a kite after the team had moved to the nets after warming up. And as the number of kites falling on the ground increased, more than half a dozen Delhi players had a go at what would have been their favourite pastime during childhood. Of all of those who enjoyed flying a kite, Sanghvi - the senior most - looked the most seasoned pro.
And all the players were lucky as coach Vijay Dahiya also cheered some of them running to catch a kite unlike what Ramakant Achrekar had done to his ward Vinod Kambli in the late '80s. The renowned coach had slapped Kambli after he left the crease to pursue a kite in the middle of an inter-school tie.
To Delhi team's credit, though, they did not lose focus from their training.
And the whole camp was looking forward to the all-important final.
"It's a very special occasion," opening batsman Aakash Chopra said. "Almost all of us are playing our first final and we would do all we could to win it."
After a tumultuous period recently when the Delhi team was in the news for off-the-field activities rather than performance on the field, they have made a remarkable comeback by reaching the final this year.
And skipper Gambhir believes coach Dahiya has played a major role in it.
"The atmosphere is always charged and tensed on the ground, so it's important to have the dressing room relaxed," Gambhir said. "And Dahiya has played a crucial role in keeping it. He is very good at binding the team together. I believe he is the best captain I have played under (during Dahiya's stint as a player with the Delhi team)."