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IPL 2024: KKR reaped rich rewards courtesy Gautam Gambhir's immense belief in 'winning mentality'

IPL 2024: Gautam Gambhir mentored Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) to their third IPL title. Gambhir's work ethics, attitude and winning mentality proved vital in KKR's success.

IPL 2024: Gautam Gambhir mentored Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) to third IPL title | Walking Wicket (Images: ©BCCI/IPLT20)
Gautam Gambhir mentored KKR to third IPL title (Images: ©BCCI/IPLT20)

‘I just hate losing from being traditional and old school.’ The current mentor of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Gautam Gambhir recently expressed this to Ravichandran Ashwin on YouTube.  It’s quite natural to say, but how many have said it? The only environment where one wants to spend most of their time in is the winning territory. 

Understanding the players in the group and not differentiating among the senior or junior players have been the keys to success for Gautam Gambhir over the years. He proved it yet again in IPL 2024 albeit in a different role.  

Since the 2014 season, Kolkata made only one appearance in the final of the Indian Premier League (IPL). They ended the 2021 season as the runners-up, losing the final against the Chennai Super Kings (CSK). But the next two seasons saw them give awful performances as a unit. The ‘Purple and Gold' franchise finished at the seventh position on both occasions. 

Gautam Gambhir’s strong personality

By the time two new teams joined the IPL, Gambhir got a new position. He was appointed as the mentor of the Lucknow Super Giants (LSG). With clinical performances, the former India opener helped the team in making two successive playoffs. 

Kolkata were going through a downfall and that’s when they decided to bring back their old weapon. Gambhir became the new mentor of KKR in IPL 2024. That was perhaps the best decision the Knights could’ve taken ahead of the edition.

‘People who know, know what sort of person I am’- The former captain of the team representing the ‘City of Joy’ in the IPL remarked. ‘I don’t intend to please anyone.’ 

Most of the people talk about how Mahendra Singh Dhoni never shows emotion in the middle. The same goes for Gambhir. Whenever the camera found him during this tournament, no one could judge the situation of the game from his face. 

Ashwin during the interview mentioned the ‘white-line syndrome.’ It’s a term he picked from Sridharan Sharath, one of Tamil Nadu’s finest left-hand batters. The white-line syndrome means the determination of winning against anyone, including your near-ones.  

‘And what’s wrong in it, Ash?’ Gautam responded straightaway. ‘You know, people sometimes say he (Gambhir himself) doesn’t smile, he is grumpy; People don’t come to watch me smile, people come to watch me win.’

Besides being crystal clear on his decisions, the Delhi-born cricketer elaborated on the importance of a winning dressing room. At the end of the day he always wants to end on the winning side. He also touched on the importance of small contributions in this format of the game. 

‘In team sports, the big contributions make headlines, the small ones make you win.’ Gambhir stated. If an opener has made 80 runs, and someone has nailed a 10-ball 25, then the latter deserves the praise. The 80-run knock will only matter because of the 25 runs, which helped the team win eventually. 

‘Unless and until, you don’t start appreciating small contributions, there is no other way that a young cricketer will start feeling he belongs to the team.’ The mentor of KKR pointed out. ‘That’s always been my philosophy.’  

The veteran also tapped on how the bowler bowling the sixth over (the last over of the powerplay) of the innings plays a huge role for the team. The same goes for someone bowling the last over of the innings. Those good overs always allow the bowling side to keep the momentum in their court. 

IPL 2024_ Shreyas Iyer, Gautam Gambhir take KKR to the Finals _ Walking Wicket (Images_ ©BCCI_IPLT20)
Gautam Gambhir, Shreyas and Chandrakant KKR's think tank (Images: ©BCCI/IPLT20)
Gambhir’s strategic and winning mentality

The winning mentality of GG, as Gambhir is often called, has been quite incredible. Even from a losing position, he believes in the team, and that they can turn it around. Kolkata did the same against Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) with a one-run win at the Eden Gardens. The best skill of his mentoring stint has been the role clarification. 

He was crystal clear from the start that Sunil Narine would open their batting. After a few failures, many put questions on the decision, but Gambhir had already locked his target. The West Indies batter ends IPL 2024 with 488 runs at a strike rate of over 180. His century against the Rajasthan Royals (RR) was surprising to most, but not to the KKR mentor.

Four of their bowlers had more than 15 wickets in the season. In the batting department, both openers smashed more than 400 runs while both Venkatesh Iyer and Shreyas Iyer recorded 300+ runs each. 

Mitchell Starc’s struggle at the start was increasing the pressure on the management, added by the 24.75 crore INR price tag. But Gambhir stayed with him, and finally, the veteran left-arm pacer made the difference in the playoffs. The Australia bowler returned with figures of 3/34 and 2/14 in the first qualifier and final, respectively, Both spells came against the ‘Orange Army’, SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH). 

Hardcore execution of plans

The IPL always produces a face-off between the best players. One has to perform to the best of their ability if they want to catch the limelight. Gambhir’s vision for the future is quite strong. 

‘Thanks, Nitish for this (welcome) message. This means a lot. Let’s create sumthing (something) special.’ Nitish Rana shares Gambhir’s response on Instagram, when the latter joined the franchise. ‘There is no better feeling in sport (than) to stand on a podium and win a trophy. Let’s experience thtt (that).’    

When all the KKR players met at Eden Gardens for the pre-season camp, their mentor already set the goal for them. 

‘Everyone in the group will be treated equally. There is no senior/junior; there is no domestic/international because we’ve got one mission i.e. to win the IPL.’ Gambhir expressed this to the players during KKR’s first net session on March 16. ‘On 26th May (IPL 2024 final), we should be there, giving everything possible, and it starts from today.’ 

And, he kept his word. The whole team went with the same momentum throughout the season. Kolkata also joined Rajasthan (2008 season) to face the fewest defeats (3) in an IPL season. It’s quite phenomenal that for the whole season, Andre Russell wasn’t needed to bat for the Knights during their chases. 

The strong personality, with a winning mentality and superb role clarity for perfect execution from Gautam Gambhir, is second to none. He has achieved something really special. Entire Kolkata still enjoys the moment. And, they will look to carry the same in the upcoming editions with their beloved ‘GG.’ 

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