Gautam Gambhir’s appointment on Saturday as team mentor of the new Lucknow franchise of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is a move towards building an inclusive team environment “geared towards a culture of performance”, owner Sanjiv Goenka of the RPSG Group stated. Gambhir is expected to have an advisory role in the franchise and will be the “guiding hand” when it comes to firming up the team’s plans and improving player performance. The former India opening batter led Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) to twin IPL titles in 2012 and 2014.
“Gautam will primarily have a motivational role to play,” Goenka said. “He will also help to create a blueprint for the franchise in the long term. We wanted to have people with a proven track record of success. Gautam has also successfully groomed a generation of youngsters for KKR and that went in his favour,” he added.
Gambhir will work with new head coach Andy Flower, meaning the Lucknow backroom now has two no-nonsense former cricketers, both with immense tactical knowledge and both known for an intense approach towards the game. They were dogged and feisty batters in their time too. “Gautam has an image of being a totally non-partisan leader with a focus on results. Look at what he did for KKR. Fundamentally we would like the dressing room to be geared towards a culture of performance,” Goenka said. The RPSG Group has been previously involved in the IPL with the Rising Pune Supergiant franchise but things are very different this time, according to Goenka.
“That was just a short two-year thing. We were impatient and left many things unfinished. This (Lucknow) is oriented towards the long term as not many franchises have come in and succeeded in the first year itself.” Many other IPL franchises like Delhi Capitals have complained that the auction process has outlived its usefulness, with teams being forced to give away players they have groomed from a young age or prepared for the big time. Things are different for Lucknow, which has to build a team from the ground up. Goenka was tight-lipped on the team’s plans — which is rumoured to include going aggressively for KL Rahul as first-choice captain at the auction revealing only that “we have zeroed in on a couple of names”.
“I have to follow the system,” he said. “I have no role in the rules and regulations. That said, the biggest inspiration for me is Mumbai Indians. What they have achieved, and how they have gone about it, is a template for not only other IPL teams but sports franchises worldwide.” Gambhir, also a BJP politician and a sitting member of Parliament from East Delhi, said in an official statement, “The fire to win a contest still burns bright inside me. The desire to leave a winner’s legacy still kicks me 24×7. I will not be contesting for a dressing room but for the spirit and soul of Uttar Pradesh.”