Gambhir's chance to prove his leadership credentials: Akram

IPL is just the perfect platform for Gambhir to prove a point or two to the selectors about his leadership qualities.

Calcutta (The Telegraph): When Virat Kohli was selected as the vice-captain of the Indian team for the Asia Cup, ahead of the experienced Gautam Gambhir (Virender Sehwag, the other candidate, had a shoulder injury and was rested), it sparked off an almost nation-wide debate.

The decision was perhaps a recognition of the right-hander’s impeccable form over the last year — he scored the highest number of runs in the one-day Internationals and a message to Gambhir.

While Virat is an exciting prospect, the same notion was held for Gambhir as well even a year back. That it was not a misconception, is what Gambhir would like to prove. And for the moment, the stage that IPL-V offers to him as the captain of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), is just the perfect platform to prove a point or two to the selectors about his leadership qualities. At least that is what KKR’s bowling consultant Wasim Akram feels so.

“I don’t know how Gambhir would react and what he feels… But if I were Gambhir, then I would definitely have thought to prove a point or two. I would have thought that ‘Ok, you think that I’m not even fit for vice-captaincy… But I will prove that I am a good captain by winning this IPL,” Akram said.

He went a step further to add: “He is a very good captain… He leads from the front. I don’t know what the selectors thought when they took this decision,” Akram said.

The former Pakistan captain also expressed his dissatisfaction over the fact that the selectors did not select slambang-hero Yusuf Pathan in the squad until recently. “The whole world fears Yusuf Pathan... He is back in the side now, but I don’t understand how come he was out of the Indian side for almost a year.”

Akram, who joined the KKR camp on Monday, had a three-hour training session with the players.

Incidentally, players like Gambhir, Pathan, Manoj Tiwary, Brett Lee, Shakib-al Hasan and Brendon Mccullum also attended their first practice session at the Eden on the day.

Speaking about the composition of the team this time around, Akram said: “The team has variety, in both batting and bowling. In general we have the same team, with five or six local players who have been recruited keeping in mind the future. But we would like to welcome back McCullum."

“We have a very good coach in Trevor Bayliss, who has immense T20 experience. The best thing about this team is that they like each other’s company. They will enjoy the success... This is the secret of any team’s success, to support each other’s success or failure.”

The squad of KKR is replete with quality pace bowlers. So, will the side want to play their home matches on fast pitches? “Wicket does not make any difference as we have a good side. We all know that the Eden wicket is a good batting track… We will be playing according to team combination,” the legendary pacer said.

Asked whether he was looking forward to the highly-anticipated clash between the Sourav Ganguly-led Pune Warriors India and KKR, Akram said: “It would be a very exciting contest… Sourav is a great friend of mine. I have worked with him, both as a player and a commentator. He is a fierce competitor."

“But this time the pressure will be on him and not on us. It will be the first time, we will see him under pressure.”

Akram also welcomed the inclusion of Rudi Webster as KKR’s mental skill coach. “The idea to have a sports psychologist is to give confidence to the players going through a lean phase."

“When I was a player, I used to speak to my wife as she was a psychologist. Rudi is very experienced, having worked with Gary Sobers, Viv Richards and Brian Lara. He has a lot of cricketing experience. When you are mentally comfortable, it helps your game,” Akram said.

Shifting focus from IPL to Sachin Tendulkar’s recently conquered peak of the hundredth hundred, Akram said: “People say records are meant to be broken... I don’t think this record will be broken. It will remain forever, like that of Don Bradman’s average... This record will never be broken.”