PARTAB RAMCHAND | 24 MARCH, 2019
Gambhir Brings Politics to Cricket
Snap all ties with pakistan or play unconditionally
He was gutsy with the bat while opening for India. These days Gautam Gambhir is gutsy in his statements. Not one to hold his feelings he speaks candidly on contentious issues and personalities and is unafraid of ruffling a few feathers along the way.
Other players may adopt the diplomatic route but Gambhir believes in calling a spade a spade. However he does not make wild statements just to be in the public eye. But he has hogged the spotlights, having joined the BJP and is preparing to contest the Lok Sabha polls.
In the last couple of months Gambhir has taken a bold stand, that many would describe as confrontationist, on many issues and personalities in the course of interviews and at promotional events. For example he never hid his disappointment at Md Azharuddin given the honour of ringing the bell at a Test at the Eden Gardens. He made it clear that the former Indian captain had never been given a clean chit by the CBI in the match fixing case and only his ban was removed and he felt let down by the BCCI when he saw Azhar ringing the bell. ``Someone who has done something wrong, particularly of this type, has no place in my life’’ he said in an interview.
Gambhir advocated that the BCCI should either snap all cricketing ties with Pakistan including multilateral events or engage with the arch rivals at every level as ``there cannot be conditional bans.’’ Gambhir said that what happened in Pulwama was ``absolutely not acceptable’’ and reiterated that there should be a blanket ban on engagements with Pakistan even if it came at the cost of being ostracized by the sporting community. He cited England’s forfeiture of their 2003 World Cup fixture against Zimbabwe in protest against the Robert Mugabe regime,
Asked what should be done if the two teams meet in the final Gambhir said in that case India should forfeit the final. `
`Two points are not that important.The country is more important, the 40 soldiers who lost their lives are far more important than a cricket match. If we let go of the World Cup final the country should be ready for it.’’ Queried if India’s stand could lead to a sporting boycott of the country Gambhir said he would not mind that. ``All of us need to decide if sport is more important or the lives of our soldiers. I am all for facing a backlash if the international sporting federation decides to ostracize us. If we get boycotted at sports event we should be ready for it,’’ he said.
In the last few days Gambhir has questioned Virat Kohli’s tactical nous in the lead up to the IPL saying that the Indian captain is ``very lucky’’ to be continuing as captain of the Royal Challengers, Bangalore. Gambhir said that Kohli should be thankful that the franchisee has not sacked him despite his continued failure to win them a title.
``Still a long way to go’’ Gambhir said not holding back when asked about Kohli’s captaincy. ``I don’t see him as a shrewd captain. And he hasn’t won the IPL. Ultimately a captain is only as good as his record.’’
Kohli took over the captaincy full time in 2012 and in seven seasons under him RCB have progressed to the play offs on just two occasions despite having the most star studded batting line-up in the competition which besides the captain includes Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers.
Incidentally RCB, King’s XI Punjab and Delhi Daredevils/Capitals remain the only sides without a title but RCB are the only franchisee to have shown faith in their leadership. For his part Gambhir led Kolkata Knight Riders to the title twice and he has also impressed whenever he stepped in to lead India in MS Dhoni’s absence.
A couple of months ago Gambhir said that he was of the view that the likes of MS Dhoni and Shikhar Dhawan should be asked to play first class cricket before joining the Indian team for the ODI series in Australia. ``I was a little disappointed because some of the guys should have played first class cricket. The selectors should have pushed them to play first class cricket. Ultimately you will get confidence only by scoring runs, not by hitting the nets.
Gambhir has also been very clear in his view that Rishabh Pant has not earned a place yet in the ODI squad. ``We have got Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik. He can wait for his opportunity. Obviously he has done well in Test cricket but In ODIs he can wait for his turn.’’
He has a view certainly, on almost every one and every thing. And has now found a political niche in the BJP that should serve him well.