True leaders possess a firm integrity in their character. They create a sense of belonging through actions and words. Indian cricket saw countless chiefs marshalling the troop over the years but the recent spark of Gautam Gambhir — the out-of-favour India cricketer and the skipper of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the IPL — is conveying a strong message; that of his credentials as a captain in the national team.

In the ongoing cash-rich league, the 35-year-old southpaw made two statements. With four half-centuries (71*, 62, 72*, 76*) he became the third batsman to complete 4,000 runs in the tournament and post the comfortable win against Delhi Daredevils on Friday, he announced that his man of the match prize money would go to the families of the CRPF jawans martyred in Sukma. Maoist rebels launched an attack on the security forces in the Chattisgarh region that killed 26 troopers on April 25. The event caused a national outrage.

“I am a proud Indian and I have decided to donate whatever awards I’ve earned to the families of the CRPF jawans martyred in Sukma. They have given the ultimate sacrifice for us. I am doing my bit towards them,” said Gambhir at the presentation ceremony. It has been learnt that the cricketer’s charitable establishment, The Gautam Gambhir Foundation, will look into the educational expenses of the children of the deceased. “My team has already started work on this and I shall soon share the progress we have made,” he later wrote on social media. Photographs of the ghastly attack touched the skipper’s heart.

When his stars are assisting him on the pitch, the noble deeds could open a new avenue for the stylish batsman. With seven wins out of nine outings, KKR are already sitting on top of the table and Gambhir deserves the chunk of the credit. Ever since the revamp of the franchise with Gambhir as boss, he ended up playing 100 odd-games and the success rate (as skipper) reads 58.17 per cent — quite an impressive record for a cricketer who only appears in the domestic season other than the IPL.

KKR reached the playoffs for the first time in 2011 and as the fans expected, they lifted the trophy in 2012 and then, in 2014. Former Pakistan pace great Wasim Akram, who helped KKR bowlers till last year, also agreed that Gambhir stood out as a leader in those two seasons. “It means a lot to the team when the skipper is performing well. It adds to the security and self-belief. I believe he was the best captain in this IPL,” he had said. KKR won 60 matches out of 105 outings, including games at the now-defunct Champions League T20, under him.

Gambhir is not only an attacking batsman upfront, he also identified and nurtured youngsters like Iqbal Abdulla, Manvinder Bisla (the match-winner of 2012) and now, Kuldeep Yadav.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the only other skipper who has two IPL trophies under his belt. Even he felt challenged by Gambhir’s on-field movements at times. The KKR skipper had placed two slips and fielders at short leg and silly point to stop Dhoni’s flamboyancy.

His ferocity as India skipper, when the Men in Blue beat New Zealand 5-0 in ODIs at home (in 2010), didn’t see a longer innings. He was filling in for Dhoni, who was irreplaceable. But his no nonsense attitude could have been handy for the team.

Gambhir understands the requirements from players and deals with them accordingly. During the mid innings break against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) recently in the IPL, he threatened to expel his players if they didn’t perform to their potential. KKR were all out for 131 from being 65/1 at the end of powerplay. “I told them whoever dropped on intent should understand that this could be his last game for KKR, at least in my captaincy,” he said.

RCB were bundled out for 49, the lowest total ever in the history of the tournament. He couldn’t turn the tide donning whites for the national team, whenever recalled, but a limited-over comeback can’t be ruled out. With Ajinkya Rahane as deputy and Virat Kohli as skipper, he could be the go-to man for the boys in crunch situations.