'I have never felt this confident before'
Having emerged as a major threat to Australia and Sri Lanka in the on-going cricket tri-series, India's young number three batsman Gautam Gambhir has thrown down the gauntlet to the hosts ahead of their Sunday clash.
Gambhir blasted a century off just 99 balls against Sri Lanka when the Indians were in doldrums at 83 for 4 to serve out a warning that Australia could no longer treat the opening duo of incomparable Sachin Tendulkar and dashing bat Virender Sehwag as principal thorns to their ambitions.
"The plan is simple, see the ball, hit the ball and play in the 'V'. The conditions here give a batsman full value for his strokes though (admittedly) you need a lot of courage and determination," said Gambhir, who is the lone centurion for India in the series so far.
"There is a lot of talk that when you come to Australia you play on the backfoot all the times. But if you ask me, the plan should be to meet the ball on the front foot.
"It's difficult to get on to the front foot when you are facing genuine quick bowlers like Brett Lee or Mitchell Johnson but there is very little chance when you are sitting on the backfoot," he added.
Unlike most of his team-mates, including skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Gambhir has experience of playing in Australia as well as of facing some of the quicks who are now part of their national squad.
"I had played in Australia for India 'A' before and have faced the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait. I did well then and to be honest, I have never felt this confident before," said the Delhi batsman.
Gambhir, a left-hander with quicksilver reflexes, has a simple mantra in life: "You don't win a silver, you lose a gold." The inference is clear: win at all costs.
"That is what I believe in and this is what I want to maintain throughout my playing career," said the youngster, who has the potential to build a great deal on his three centuries from 39 ODI games as of now.
Gambhir seems to come on to his own against the Sri Lankans. He has two centuries from three games against the neighbours and averages a Bradmanesque 116.50 against them.
He admitted of having difficulty in picking up Muttiah Muralitharan initially but towards the later stages of his innings in Brisbane was lording over the world's most successful bowler ever.
"I'm coming on the back of a good Ranji season where I played quality spin bowling. I think this will keep me in good stead against the Lankans." Gambhir's nimble footwork has been lauded in the past as well. The likes of Imran Khan and Ravi Shastri have even gone on to claim that he possesses the best footwork against the spinners.
"That is because even as a kid I played quality spin bowling, but more than the feet the positive approach is in the mind. If you are sure and confident in the mind, invariably your feet will take you where you should be," he said.
Gambhir does not feel that there is anything missing when he bats at number 3. "What is paramount is what the team management wants. We have to support our skipper and make sure that India wins, what is our batting slot or who gets the new ball are all inconsequential," he said.
"Veeru and myself have a great understanding since we have played a lot of cricket together, while Sachin 'paaji' gives a lot of confidence when I'm batting with him, so it is a treat to bat with either of them.
Though Gambhir is proud of the Twenty20 World Cup triumph in South Africa, he still maintains that the real stuff is Test cricket and One-day Internationals.
"September 24 , 2007 when we won in Johannesburg is one of the proudest days of my life but I'd still want to be remembered as a good Test and one-day player," said Gambhir, who is India's highest run-getter in the Twenty20 format.