Vadodara: Three wins on the trot as captain and back-to-back centuries to help his side clinch the ODI series against New Zealand, Gautam Gambhir on Saturday said he was enjoying as skipper of the Indian team as runs were flowing from his bat.
Gambhir said leading the side in the absence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni has not affected his batting and he did not feel any different while playing without the burden of captaincy.
“As a player or a captain I have given 100 per cent. Captaincy has not changed my batting. I am striking the ball well and would have batted like this under any captain,” Gambhir said after playing a captain’s knock of 126 not out to help India score a series-clinching victory over New Zealand in the third ODI here.
“Playing for the country is enough of motivation to do well. I always believe captain is only as good as the team he has under him. I am lucky to have a fine set of players who are all motivated to do well,” he said.
Gambhir was fulsome in praise of his bowlers and described spearhead Zaheer Khan, who pushed New Zealand on the back foot with his two-wicket haul in the first five overs, as the best left-arm pacer in the world now.
“He’s the best left arm pace bowler in the world now and to have him in the side is a a great asset,” said Gambhir.
“Ashwin is a quality spinner with a lot of variety. To be able to bowl well during Power Plays and in the slog phase is great. If he keeps bowling like this he will be a big asset to the team,” he said.
“Yusuf (Pathan) and Munaf (Patel) are very talented and quality players. Munaf bowled great at first change. Getting 1 for 28 in 10 overs in sub continent wickets is great. He was exceptional today. And the way Yusuf contributed with the ball was also a great job. Given an opportunity I would love to have him bat higher up the order,” he added.
He said it was a good toss to win as there was early morning help to the bowlers.
“When there is dew in Baroda it does a bit in the morning. It’s red soil. It was a good toss to win but even it you win it or not you have to keep doing the job. It was a great effort from our bowlers to restrict them to 225-odd. It was a very good team effort,” said the left-handed opener who slammed an unbeaten 126 to be named the man of the match.
It was the 29-year-old’s second ton against the Kiwis on the trot after his match-winning 138 not out in the second ODI in Jaipur on December 1.
Gambhir had kept an attacking field right through the New Zealand innings, including at slip and leg slip, and said it was because he knew getting wickets against the Kiwis who have a long batting line up was essential to restrict them.
“There was still a bit of dampness out there and we wanted to take wickets as New Zealand bat deep down with Kyle Mills coming in at number 10,” said Gambhir whose bowlers did a wonderful job by utilising the conditions well.
India have taken an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series but Gambhir did not think it was time to experiment with the playing eleven now.
“We should try and put our best team on the park as it is an international game and we are playing a quality side,” he said.
Gambhir also said he was not aiming for a 5-0 sweep at present and only looking at winning the next game in Bangalore on December 7.
“I am taking one game at a time and not looking at a 5-0 clean sweep. At the moment my sight is on Bangalore and how the wicket will behave rather than at 5-0 score line,” he said.
Praising Yuvraj Singh’s contribution even when the flamboyant left-hander has not been called upon to do much with the bat today, Gambhir said his role was very important to him as captain.
“Yuvi is an experienced player and an integral part of the side. His contribution has been enormous and great help to me as captain. His role and place is very important,” he said.
He also welcomed the competition among the players in the side ahead of the 2011 World Cup.
“It’s good to have competitions for various places (in the run up to World Cup). If the selectors have a headache in this aspect it’s a very good sign for Indian cricket,” he said.