New Delhi: Cricket should be run by administrators and not the Supreme Court, former India opener and East Delhi Lok Sabha MP Gautam Gambhir said Wednesday, stressing on a democratic process to elect such a body.
Gambhir was speaking less than two weeks before the BCCI elections are supposed to take place on 23 October. The BCCI hasn’t had elected office-bearers since January 2017, when a Supreme Court bench headed by then-Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur had removed president Anurag Thakur — Gambhir’s fellow BJP MP — and secretary Ajay Shirke for failing to implement the Justice Lodha Committee reforms, and appointed a Committee of Administrators to run the cash-rich body.
However, Gambhir said it wasn’t the “right way” to run the game.
“Let the cricket administrators run cricket, because cricket needs to be run by administrators. There needs to be a democratic process and I am sure, going forward, whoever comes to power will run cricket the way it should be run,” Gambhir told ThePrint in an exclusive interview.
On Team India’s performances abroad
Speaking about the Indian men’s cricket team led by Virat Kohli, which is the world’s No.1 team in Tests, the 37-year-old Gambhir, who played 58 Tests, 147 ODIs and 37 T20Is for the country, said the team needs to deliver consistently in overseas conditions to be recognised as a true numero uno.
Kohli’s men won the first-ever series for India on Australian soil earlier this year, but the team’s form in places like England and South Africa has not been good over the last decade.
Gambhir said every team dominates at home, so the true number one will be the team that can dominate abroad.
“See, I have always maintained one thing — you become number one when you start dominating the opposition in their own backyard. India has always been a supreme power when it comes to playing at home. We’ve always done that under every captain, and I don’t remember any captain that hasn’t dominated in Indian conditions,” he said.
“But, yes, when you go abroad, when you start dominating abroad, that is when you actually become number one,” he said, citing the example of the great West Indies and Australia teams of the 1970s-80s and 1990s-2000s respectively.
“Look at the West Indies in the past, look at Australia in the past… They were able to dominate in Indian conditions as well. That is probably one thing which this team still lacks, and I’m sure this will get better over a period of time,” Gambhir said.
“India has the best bowling attack that it has ever had in Test cricket… Their personal skills, experience… They’ve got every type of bowler which India needs to get 20 wickets. Ultimately, it’s time to deliver, because if India can’t deliver now in overseas conditions, I don’t think India can ever deliver,” he said.
Bumrah, the game-changer
Gambhir, who was Kohli’s senior in the Delhi team in Indian domestic cricket, termed the India captain a “world-class batsman”, and also hailed Rohit Sharma as a player who was too good to sit on the bench in any format. Sharma has had a stop-start Test career alongside his prolific limited-overs career, but recently made twin centuries in his first outing as a Test opener against South Africa in Visakhapatnam.
However, according to Gambhir, it is fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah who is the biggest “game-changer”.
“We’ve got Jasprit Bumrah, who is probably as important as someone like Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli for India. We never talk about our bowlers, but Bumrah is probably the biggest X-factor India has at the moment in all the three formats. We keep talking about Kohli and Rohit Sharma and other batters, but Jasprit Bumrah for me is the biggest game-changer,” he said.
“(This is) probably the best pace attack India has ever had. Yes, we had Zaheer Khan, probably the best fast bowler India has produced, but then there was not enough quality alongside Zaheer Khan. But now we’ve got Mohammed Shami, the best fast bowler after Bumrah, and then we’ve got Ishant Sharma, who has the experience. Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar… all these guys are quite experienced,” he said.
“Yes, we talk about some of the batters who have made 10,000 or 15,000 runs, but he (Bumrah) is a dream bowler for any captain. I wish when we were playing, we had Bumrah alongside Zaheer Khan… Probably we would have won more Test matches,” Gambhir said.
On Rishabh Pant
Like Kohli, Gambhir has also seen explosive wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant at close quarters in the Delhi set-up, and defended the youngster against the criticism he gets for getting out in a bid for quick runs.
“First thing, we should not be focusing too much on Rishabh Pant; he’s still very young and I think a lot of focus has been given on him, which is not right. I think we should let the young boy be, he should be allowed to play the way he wants to play. He should play the way he thinks he can perform for India,” Gambhir said.
“Ultimately, it is about performance… It’s not about skills, it’s not about talent. If you don’t perform well there will be someone waiting.
“There is a lot of focus that’s given to Rishabh Pant and a lot of criticism as well, which is not fair.”
On Dhoni’s future
Asked about the speculation surrounding 38-year-old former India captain M.S. Dhoni’s future in international cricket, Gambhir played with a straight bat.
“That is up to him to decide. I think everyone has got the right to take their own decisions. Everyone has got the right to decide when they want to hang their boots, and it is up to him to decide,” he said.
“I have always maintained that no one should force retirement on anyone. Everyone knows when is the right time to walk out of the game.”