Monday, November 30, 2009

My job is to score runs: Gambhir

NEW DELHI: Gautam Gambhir can do no wrong these days. The opener has gone from strength to strength over the last year or so,becoming a bigger scourge for the bowlers every passing month.

Fresh from leading India to a landslide win over Sri Lanka in the Kanpur Test, Gambhir, who will be skipping the third Test in Mumbai (beginning Wednesday) to attend his sister's wedding, spoke to TOI on Monday over a host of issues. Excerpts:

It must have been a tough decision to skip a Test when you are in the form of your life...

At times, family comes first. This is one occasion, you don't want to miss. I tried to adjust the timing, but it was touch and go and eventually, it didn't work out. Earlier, I thought of taking an evening flight to Delhi and then fly back to Mumbai next morning. But with weather conditions uncertain, you can't take a chance. Such an event doesn't happen again and again and so I decided to skip the Test.

Virender Sehwag had said that you are the best opening batsman India have produced after Sunil Gavaskar. Your response.

It's quite a compliment from Sehwag, even though I don't believe in comparisons. Right now, I have a lot to achieve. It's been two years that I'm regular Test opener. I have a long way to go. It's good that I am able to score consistently and in my opinion, that is my job.

Many cricket pundits feel you are now India's best batsman. How to do react to such praise when the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid, Sehwag are a part of the same team?

As I said earlier, I don't believe in comparisons. If I am able to contribute to my team's fortune, that makes me the happiest man.

You are also the BCCI cricketer of the year...

I consider myself lucky. Getting awards motivates a player, but for me the biggest motivation is to play for the country.

Apart from cricket, what do you share with Sehwag when you two are batting together?

We try to keep each other relaxed by cracking jokes and singing some tunes other than discussing cricket. When the overs start, we get into our shells and concentrate intensely on our batting. So, the breaks between overs actually help us relax.

You are playing fewer Test matches nowadays. Do you think that there should be better balance between Tests, ODIs and T20s?

Personally, I prefer Test cricket because that is the ultimate test for any cricketer in matter of skills, stamina and temperament. But if we play Test after long gaps, it's slightly tough to adapt initially. Something of that sort happened in the first innings against Sri Lanka in the first Test at Ahmedabad. But in the second innings, I was a lot more confident.

Who is the biggest fan of your batting in the Indian dressing room?

(Laughs) I don't think anyone enjoys my batting. When there is so much flair, so many strokemakers and record-holders in the team, there is little opportunity for them to watch me bat. I am the batsman with the least talent in the team. My job is to socre runs.

No.1 Test batsman in the world, four hundreds in last four Tests...did you imagine all this happening three-four years ago?

I knew I could make it big. But I was in and out of the side. Once I got a longer run, I started scoring. Now, I don't want to get complacent and relax. For me, it's important to give good starts to my team and I will do it to the best of my ability.

Was it a ploy to attack the Sri Lanka spinners from the word go...

When I go out to bat, my natural instinct is to play aggressively. On top of that, the pitches were flat. So it was easy for me to dominate the Lankans spinners.

Do you think Muttiah Muralitharan is losing his edge?

Not at all. He is too great a spinner to lose the edge. Don't forget his record and never underestimate his ability to take wickets. Right now, like any other cricketer, he is going through a lean patch, but a wicket or two can make a big difference.

Have the Indians sorted out Ajantha Mendis?

If you are playing international cricket for sometime, it's natural that the opposing teams are going to study you. We have also done our homework.

Unlike some of your teammates, you are not very emotive on the field. Is this your natural being?

Well, that is how I am. I don't express too much on the field. But in front of my family and friends, I am a different person. This is my basic nature.

Your thoughts on Sreesanth's bowling spell in the Kanpur Test?

Sreesanth was fantastic. He is very talented. If he can stay away from controversies, he is a great asset for the Indian team and can lead the Indian pace attack with Ishant (Sharma).

Some reports claim that Sreesanth is still a loner even after his Kanpur performance?

These are all rumours. When you are playing for India, everyone has a common goal and there can't be any loner in that. He is very much part of the team and has shown what he can do for India.

Coming to Ishant, how do you see him getting back to form?

Look, Ishant is just 21 and if he is going through a low phase, it's going to help him come back stronger. He is immensely talented. Not only that, he is going to break a lot of records. Even I have gone through similar stages. In the end, it only makes us stronger and wiser.

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