Over the years, probably on every anniversary of India’s historic 2011 World Cup win and through almost each of his interviews, Gautam Gambhir has always criticised “hero worship” in Indian cricket, reiterating that instead of focussing on top stars like MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, it is time for media and fans to focus on other performers in the team as well.
Speaking to Indian Express in an interview last year, Gambhir dated back to 1983, when India won its maiden World Cup trophy, saying that it had started right back then when the victory was made all about the captain, Kapil Dev. He then pointed out the same for the 2007 T20 World Cup win and 2011 ODI World Cup haul, with Dhoni being the centre of attention even now when India celebrate those two wins every year.
“If you keep talking about one person day in and day out, it eventually becomes a brand. That is how it was in 1983. Why start from Dhoni? It started in 1983. When India won the first World Cup, it was all about Kapil Dev. When we won in 2007 and 2011, it was Dhoni. Who created that? None of the players did. Nor did the BCCI. Have the news channels and broadcasters ever spoken about Indian cricket?” he had asked.
Three months back, during an interaction with News 18, he was asked the same thing and he pointed out that people seldom talk about the impact Yuvraj Singh had in India’s World Cup wins in 2007 and 2011. Although he did not take Dhoni’s name this time, he opined that one individual and his PR team made him the hero of the two trophy hauls but in reality, it was Yuvraj’s all-round contribution that saw India make the final of both tournaments.
“It’s unfortunate that when we talk about the 2007 and 2011 World Cups, we don’t take Yuvraj Singh’s name. Why not? It’s only and only marketing and PR and portraying one individual as the biggest and everyone else as smaller than him,” he had said. “We have been told who won us the 2007 and 2011 World Cups (but) it was not one individual it was the entire team. No one individual can win a big tournament. If that was the case, India would’ve had 5-10 World Cups.”
Despite pointing out the hard reality, the remarks have never gone down well with fans of Dhoni who have always lashed out at Gambhir each time he highlights the same. And hence, on Saturday, when he made a statement on India’s win against Pakistan in a group game in the Asia Cup while live on commentary for the 2023 edition of the same clash at the Pallekele International Stadium, Dhoni fans were quick to point out the ‘hypocrisy’.
In the tense chase of 268 in Dambulla, India lost Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli early before Gambhir joined hands with Dhoni to revive the innings with their 102-run stand where both reached the fifties. Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina looked to provide some assistance from the middle-order before the match went down to the final over where Harbhajan Singh smashed a six in the penultimate ball against Mohammad Amir to help India win by by three wickets.
When the scorecard of that 2010 thriller was flashed live on TV by the broadcasters, Gambhir was hailed for his knock as he was awarded the Player of the Match for his 83-run knock. But the veteran opener humbly shifted the limelight on Harbhajan, pointing out that he scored the winning run and that mattered more than his knock and his partnership with Dhoni.
“Jitaya maine nehi, jitaya Harbhajan Singh ne tha. Meri aur Dhoni ke beech sajidari zarur huyi thi but mera manna hain ki jo aankhri run banata hain wohi jitata hain (I did not win that match for India. It was Harbhajan. Yes I did get a partnership with Dhoni but I believe that the batter who scores the winning run actually clinches victory for the team),” he said.
With the fans finding the comment in direct contrast to what Gambhir has come saying all over the years on Dhoni’s World Cup-winning six, he was trolled on X for the ‘hypocrisy’.