What lies ahead for head coach Gautam Gambhir

For starters, Gambhir is taking up the role at a high point — read T20 World Cup win — Indian cricket hasn't experienced in more than a decade.
Gautam Gambhir
Gautam Gambhir

CHENNAI: So, its official now, well it has been for the past 36 hours. Gautam Gambhir is the coach to take Indian team and cricket forward over the next three and a half years. While Gambhir and former India cricketer and women’s team coach WV Raman were the two prominent candidates to have given interviews, the former’s road ahead with the Men in Blue comes with its own challenges.

For starters, Gambhir is taking up the role at a high point — read T20 World Cup win — Indian cricket hasn't experienced in more than a decade. And, there are two more ICC trophies to be won in the next 12 months — the Champions Trophy and the World Test Championship. That being said, Gambhir, too, is coming on the back of a big win.

Having mentored Lucknow Super Giants for two years, he moved to Kolkata Knight Riders — the team he had captained to multiple IPL titles — and immediately showed results with a trophy in May. In the past three years, he has worked with multiple international stars as mentor and has been able to run the show with a hands-on approach and as the face of the respective teams.

In the Indian dressing room, however, it could be one of the challenges. He will be coaching the team that has players he shared dressing room with as a team member (both international and domestic), players whose stardom and stature has grown multifolds in the past decade. From Virat Kohli to Rohit Sharma to Rishabh Pant to Hardik Pandya to Jasprit Bumrah, the big names make at least half the side that will take the field in the ICC events.

This is where Sanjay Bharadwaj, Gambhir's childhood coach, believes his quest for taking up new challenges and experience of backing players will be helpful. "The first role of a coach is to show belief and confidence in the players and their ability," says Bharadwaj. "'You give your best and I am with you. Try your best and even if you cannot execute, I will still be with you'. When a coach tells you that, as a player, you will not be afraid. The insecurity will be gone. You have to give confidence by standing by the player and I feel Gautam has got that. He knows what kind of pressure he had as a player and what he did to not be afraid and he will ensure the same," he adds.

Now, Gambhir, the youngest Indian to become the head coach of the men's team, is very different from his predecessor Rahul Dravid as an individual. At the same time, he has shown enough signs in the past to establish he knows when to take a back seat. In 2018, Gambhir left KKR to come back and lead Delhi Capitals but midway through the season he resigned from captaincy and let Shreyas Iyer take the team forward.

As India's coach, he might not be the one taking on-field decisions, but he would be aware enough to let the players do their thing while contributing off the field. And he will not be doing it alone. The names of Abhishek Nayar (assistant coach), Vinay Kumar and L Balaji (bowling coach) are doing rounds to join as support staff, and Gambhir has worked with them might come in handy.

The other key aspect of his tenure will be handling the transition in 50-over and T20I format (The test team is already in transition). Bharadwaj feels that Gambhir's ability to observe and make the most of a player's ability will be helpful. "There is a natural ability of observation. The kind of player he was, he was really good at observing a player's ability whether it was Umesh Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Navdeep Saini or Yusuf Pathan, I might forget a few. He has the thing of making most of a player's ability whether it is as captain or mentor," he says.

Only time will tell whether Gambhir lives up to the expectations and fulfil the objectives he has set out to achieve. The first thing, however, would be to see how the coach settles into his role and handles the dressing room.

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