'Gautam Gambhir asked me to open. Oppositions did not take me seriously
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Besides being one of Indian cricket's finest opening batters, Gautam Gambhir was also a great leader and a master tactician. Gambhir never got the opportunity to captain the Indian team because let's face it – he was at his prime under MS Dhoni – but that did not stop him from sharpening his leadership skills, which he unleashed while captaining Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL. During his six-year-stint leading KKR, Gambhir dished out a few masterstrokes, which went a long way in success off the franchise. Not only did KKR become IPL champions twice in three years, but emerged to be one of the top teams across the Indian Premier League. Few of Gambhir's greatest gambles were replacing Brendon McCullum with Manvinder Bisla in the IPL 2012 final, and bringing Jacques Kallis into the team ahead of Shakib Al Hasan in 2014. Both decisions proved to bring wonders for KKR as both seasons they lifted the title. However, another Gambhir masterstroke was to promote West Indies spinner Sunil Narine as opener in IPL 2017 which enhanced his reputation as an all-rounder. Narine and Chris Lynn's opening pair turned around KKR's fortunes as the West Indies star went after the bowlers in the Powerplay. That season, Narine scored 224 runs from 16 matches, including a 15-ball half-century against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Looking back at the decision, Narine recalled how Gambhir showed his trust of him and gave him the freedom to express himself. "Gautam Gambhir asked me to open. He wanted me to get the team off to a fast start, it didn't matter if I lost my wicket early. Nobody could plan too much for me as I was still new to the role, opposition didn't take me that seriously, and I went from strength to strength. The more I performed well, the more confidence KKR had in me and gave me that encouragement," Narine told ESPNCricinfo.
It is interesting to note that it was not the first time that Narine opened the batting in T20 franchise cricket. Earlier, during the 2016-17 Big Bash League, Narine had first transitioned into a T20 opening batter while playing for the Melbourne Renegades.
"In the early days of IPL and in the West Indies, it was known that I could bat a bit, but with the passing of my dad - he had always wanted me to show the world I could bat, so I gave myself 18 months to work on my batting, practicing more," Narine added.