Indian Premier League (IPL) has provided popularity and commercial windfall to players, but there is no place for sentiment in the glitzy tournament. Gautam Gambhir is the latest to realise that after quitting as Delhi Daredevils skipper mid-tournament.
The former India opener led Kolkata Knight Riders to two IPL titles and was bought for Rs. 2.8 crore by Daredevils to inspire a turnaround in the underperforming team. However, he announced on Wednesday that he was stepping away as his poor batting form has compounded the woes of a team that lies last on the points table.
Shreyas Iyer, Mumbai’s talented 23-year-old batsman will be the new skipper – he was one of two players to be retained – as Daredevils looked to make a fresh start though playoff hopes are fast receding.
Daredevils have struggled with poor team balance and performances in the last few seasons. Their hopes of riding on Gambhir’s acumen have been dashed. The team has won one game out of six.
With eight games to go, chances of a playoff is all but gone. Gambhir, 36, has looked out of touch since scoring 55 in the first game, a six-wicket loss to Kings XI Punjab.
His 85 runs in five innings at an average of 17 seems to have all but ended the IPL, and possibly domestic, career of a player who has the fifth highest league games (154), fourth highest aggregate (4,217) and most fours (491).
Gambhir addressed a media conference with chief coach, Ricky Ponting, Daredevils CEO, Hemant Dua and Shreyas Iyer and the mood was sombre. “As a leader of this ship, I take complete responsibility for where we are in the points table and I have decided to step down,” he announced.
The batsman, Ponting and Dua made it clear it was entirely Gambhir’s decision. The batsman said Monday’s four-run loss to Kings XI Punjab at the Ferozeshah Kotla, failing to chase down a modest 144, “rang a bell”. It was in keeping with Daredevils’ underwhelming efforts.
I absolutely believe we got the group to turn it around. We still need to win seven out of eight, which is absolutely possible in this format. Teams have done it in the past, we have the capability to do that this year as well,” he said.
“Maybe the only thing I can point out is I was desperate to turn things around. Sometimes you are too keen, it just makes you hard on yourself. Maybe I just couldn’t handle the pressure which came with the position, responsibility I was given.”
Too old to handle pressure
But isn’t he used to IPL captaincy pressure? “Well, when I joined KKR I was 28 years old, now I am 36. Maybe coming back to Delhi was an emotional decision as well, an emotional home-coming. Sometimes emotion gets the better of you and you get desperate to turn things around.”
Another poor year could also lead to a shake-up of the support cast in the team. Dua bristled when asked if he planned to step down, but said he would not hesitate. There was little doubt Daredevils was a team in crisis.
Ponting empathised with Gambhir, having given way to let Rohit Sharma take over and lead Mumbai Indians to the title in 2013, hailed Gambhir and said the rare decision by an Indian skipper ought to be acknowledged.
“Just to back up what Gautam said, having been in the same situation myself a number of years ago, it’s a tough decision for anyone to make.
“As tough as it might be, it gives us a fresh start to this tournament, one on which we can start to make an impact with the talent we have.”
Gambhir will mentor the side, but it is only likely to increase the pressure on Shreyas Iyer and Ponting.