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'Mr Intense' Gautam Gambhir succeeds 'Mr Dependable' as Indian men's cricket team's head coach

'Mr Intense' Gautam Gambhir succeeds 'Mr Dependable' as Indian men's cricket team's head coach
A few years back, after a promotional event at a five-star hotel in New Delhi, Gautam Gambhir was seen smiling in the foyer — an unusual sight. A couple of journalists approached him. Known for being a non-conformist, he was in the midst of a cold war with the then officials of the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).

"You know why I don't fear anyone in this establishment? Because I am not here to earn money," he told the journalists, writes Kushan Sarkar, a special correspondent with Press Trust of India (PTI).

Gambhir named new head coach

On Tuesday, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) named Gautam Gambhir as head coach of the Indian cricket team. The former opener fills gigantic shoes of the legendary Indian Mr Dependable batsman Rahul Dravid, and is tasked with building on the latter's success in the recent T20 World Cup.

"I have always taken pride while donning the Indian jersey during my playing days, and it is going to be no different when I take up this new role," said the 42-year-old Gambhir in a statement.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah announced that Gautam Gambhir has been unanimously appointed as the head coach. Gambhir, who scored over 10,000 international runs in his 13-year career, will travel to Sri Lanka with the team for his first assignment in late July. Iconic Indian batters Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have been rested for the white ball ODI series against the Lankans.

Shah praised Gambhir as a "fierce competitor and a brilliant strategist" and expressed confidence in his ability to elevate the team's performance. "We believe he will bring the same tenacity and leadership to his role as head coach," Shah said. "He will bring out the best in our players."

A new journey for the former MP

Gambhir played a crucial role in India's 2011 ODI World Cup win and recently led Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) to an IPL title. His extensive experience in various capacities throughout his career makes him an ideal candidate for the coaching job, according to Shah.

After retiring as a player, Gambhir ventured into commentary and politics, becoming a lawmaker for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) before quitting politics in March to rejoin KKR as a mentor.

BCCI president Roger Binny hailed Gambhir's appointment as marking a "new chapter for Indian cricket," emphasizing his "experience, dedication, and vision for the game."

"India is my identity and serving my country has been the greatest privilege of my life. I'm honoured to be back, albeit wearing a different hat. But my goal is the same as it has always been, to make every Indian proud. The men in blue shoulder the dreams of 1.4 billion Indians and I will do everything in my power to make these dreams come true!," said Gambhir in a post on 'X'.

Controversial journey of the new coach

As Gambhir steps into this challenging role, his outspoken and often controversial personality will be scrutinized against Dravid's calm approach. Coming from Central Delhi's Old Rajinder Nagar — a hub for Civil Services aspirants — Gambhir never found things easy in Indian cricket. Perhaps this is why intensity became his second nature, as he had to constantly prove himself, writes Kushan Sarkar.

As Delhi's skipper, he once refused to attend practice for days until Ajay Jadeja, the team coach accused of match-fixing, resigned. His remarks have often been portrayed to have reflected his belief that Mahendra Singh Dhoni gets undue credit for a single six in the 2011 World Cup final. His altercation with India's star player Virat Kohli during IPL matches (RCB Vs KKR in 2013 and RCB Vs LSG in 2023) also received widespread traction.

Despite such — often controversial — actions, he is well-respected across the Indian cricket fraternity for his unflinching commitment and loyalty to his team.

With the T20 World Cup win in Barbados last month, Indian cricket team gave wings to the dreams of billions of Indian cricket fans. But the win also came as a bittersweet surprise, with multiple senior players announcing their retirement — marking the end of an era in the country's cricket history. As Gambhir takes the steering wheel as the new head coach one can only wish that the journey — with all its ups and downs — turns out to a successful one for both him, and the team!