New Delhi: A more relaxed approach to batting has been the success mantra for Indian opener Gautam Gambhir who on Friday acknowledged that coach Gary Kirsten played a vital role in making 2008 the "best year" of his cricketing career.
The diminutive Gambhir, who had a phenomenal year aggregating 1134 runs from eight Tests at an average of 70.88, said Kirsten has helped him understand his game better.
"I was too hard on myself. I wasn't too relaxed and it used to tie me up in knots on occasions. Gary helped me be at ease with myself. I now take it as it comes. Gary has helped me understand my game a lot better," Gambhir said in an interview.
"It was the best year of my cricketing career. When the year began, I never thought it'd turn out to be like that," he added.
The 27-year-old Gambhir is not prepared to rest on his laurels and promised to maintain his consistency in the coming years.
"Consistency will be my goal. It's not as if I have any specific target in mind. However, I am aware I need to keep working on my batting," said Gambhir.
Gambhir has learnt to curb his aggression whenever needed and says he can be both ultra-aggressive and painfully patient in order to suit the team.
An example of it was the fourth afternoon of the recent Mohali Test against England where Gambhir batted for 50 overs and scored a mere 41 runs.
"It mainly is a matter of confidence. I have played several big knocks in Ranji Trophy (he has 27 centuries from 104 games) where I alternated between aggression and defence," Gambhir explained.
"When you are confident, you can switch your game according to the situation. You can slip into different roles with ease," he added
Anxiety was costing Gambhir his wickets early in his career after he had taken roots at the crease. There were number of occasions when he used to cross 50 and then lose his wicket.
A case in point was the disastrous series in Sri Lanka in September-October when Gambhir scored three half centuries from his six visits to the crease but never pushed on to get a hundred.
This anomaly was brilliantly rectified in the final four Tests of the year during which Gambhir scored a stupendous 774, inclusive of three centuries, capped by one double century against world champions Australia.
As Gambhir reflects on the year gone by, he is both grateful and gratified. Gambhir said he never thought that his opening stands with Virender Sehwag would be so successful.
In 35 innings together, the two state-mates have put on 1974 runs, inclusive of five century stands, and are arguably the most feared opening pair presently in world cricket.
"Virender Sehwag is a special team-mate. We have a great bonding going, our understanding is great. On most occasions, we don't even do the calling, there is a look at each other and we just dash off for a run," he said.
Gambhir is also an admirer of skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the way he conducts himself on the field and off it.
"Dhoni is a fantastic leader of men. He never addresses as 'I', it's always 'we' when he is speaking about the team. He always has a Plan B for crisis. This, along with the support of the seniors and the support staff, has helped team to meet its' goals," he said.
Gambhir insists Indians have it in them to be the numero uno team in the world.
"I think the team has the potential to be number one in world cricket," he said.
Asked which bowler he fears the most, Gambhir said only South African Shaun Pollock bothered but he too is retired now.
"Shaun Pollock was indeed difficult to pick. I played against him during the 2004 series at home, and then more recently during the Indian Premier League. His class was apparent," he said.
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