Gautam Gambhir is a man of many dimensions. From his days as a prolific opener for India to being a two-time Indian Premier League-winning captain, his journey has been remarkable. He has also served as a Member of Parliament, transitioned into commentary, and taken on the role of mentor for Lucknow Super Giants and Kolkata Knight Riders.

Now, he steps into the spotlight once more as the head coach of the Indian cricket team.

Understanding Gambhir is not easy. He is articulate, polished, and rarely smiles – but when he does, it expresses something significant. He is the same cricketer known for kicking a chair during an Indian Premier League match and also the same person who wore a dupatta and bindi to support the transgender community.

This year marks a new chapter for Gambhir as he stepped down from active politics to concentrate on his cricket commitments. Fresh off mentoring the Knight Riders to a trophy, he now bears the responsibility of guiding the Indian men's cricket team to new heights.

As the celebrations of the T20 World Cup victory settle down, Indian cricket prepares for a new era under the guidance of a player who once captained the national team.

Gambhir, the cricketer

Since his debut in 2003 to lifting the ICC T20 World Cup in 2007 and the Cricket World Cup in 2011 – he played a significant role in the victory in both the finals – Gambhir’s international career oversaw a lot in the span of 12 years.

He featured in 58 Tests, 147 ODIs and 37 T20Is, and scored over 10,000 international runs across the three formats. The 42-year-old from Delhi is the only Indian – in a list that includes Don Bradman, Jacques Kallis and Mohammad Yousuf – to have scored centuries in five successive Test matches.

While Gambhir’s contribution in the 2011 World Cup victory has been respected widely, he has also often appeared bitter over the years, criticising Indian media for what he believed was the exaggeration of former skipper MS Dhoni’s role in the final win over Sri Lanka.

Often, he has tried to remind that his 97 in the winning chase in a 109-run stand with Dhoni was more important than the wicket-keeper’s winning six to clinch their second ODI crown.

From his beginnings in domestic cricket to emerging as a cornerstone of India’s international squad, Gambhir’s career has been characterised by flashes of brilliance and unwavering resolve.

Gambhir’s rise to the senior Indian team was distinguished by his steady performances in domestic cricket. His capability to stabilize innings with technical finesse and determination garnered him acclaim as one of India’s most talented young batters.

He later lead the Kolkata Knight Riders to two IPL titles in 2012 and 2014. Prior to joining the Kolkata franchise in November 2023 as a mentor, Gambhir served as mentor for the Lucknow Super Giants during IPL 2022 and 2023, guiding them to playoff qualifications in both seasons.

While Gambhir’s command as a batter and tactical acumen as a leader is not in doubt, it remains to be seen if his volatile on-the-pitch past will bring in more controversies or influence the Indian team to adopt a more ruthless, aggressive approach.

Gambhir, the politician

Gambhir the politician was most commonly seen in engaging with verbal wars on X, formerly, Twitter. His work as a politician however, is relatively lesser known.

On March 22, 2019, he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party and was nominated as the party’s candidate for East Delhi in the 2019 Indian general election. He went on to win the election.

As an MP, Gambhir has been proactive about addressing environmental issues and has supported initiatives to combat pollution and improve green spaces in Delhi. He frequently visited the Ghazipur landfill and took initiatives to manage it better. Additionally, he installed air purifiers in his constituency to combat pollution.

He has been active in supporting underprivileged communities, including initiatives for the welfare of children, women, and the elderly.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gambhir donated his two years’ salary as an MP and organized vaccination camps through his foundation.

Under his leadership, the BJP performed well in his constituency during the 2020 Delhi legislative elections and the 2022 Delhi Municipal Corporation Elections.

Expectations as coach

After guiding Shreyas Iyer’s Kolkata team to a title victory in his homecoming earlier this year, Gambhir faces the challenge of taking over Rahul Dravid’s operations of the Indian team.

Under Dravid’s leadership, India achieved remarkable success, reaching the final of the ICC World Test Championship and the 2023 ICC Men’s ODI World Cup, and winning the T20 World Cup in 2024.

Since this marks Gambhir’s first major coaching role, the pressure is bound to be immense.

After all, he will inherit a team that recently ended the country’s ICC trophy drought by winning the Men’s T20 World Cup in the USA and West Indies.

While the BCCI’s decision was on expected lines, it is interesting that they zeroed in on Gambhir considering his coaching experience is limited.

He has not coached a state team in the Ranji Trophy, nor has he worked with zonal or national age-group teams. Even in the IPL, his roles have been more about mentorship and overseeing cricket operations rather than hands-on coaching.

A packed calendar across formats awaits Gambhir and the Indian team, but his first assignment will be the upcoming tour of Sri Lanka, featuring three ODIs and just as many T20Is, beginning on July 27.

Retirements of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli from T20Is aside, Gambhir will be tasked with the responsibility of phasing out senior players by the 2025 Champions Trophy. The team is also likely to undergo a transition during this period.

Sharma will probably captain the side at the Champions Trophy, but Gambhir will have to start the process of grooming the next captain and the next generation of players simultaneously.

Then there is his acrimonious relationship with Kohli.

Although it seemed like the two finally shook hands for good this year, it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall in a dressing room that has both Kohli and Gambhir in it. Kohli is in the twilight of his career while Gambhir is expected to be a hard taskmaster in this coaching stint.

How that pans out in the background of the history between the two will be interesting.

It started when tempers flared in the IPL 2013 in a face-off with Kohli when the pair had to be separated by other players after clashing. It existed through the course of IPL and was on display even in Lucknow last year when the two engaged in a charged conversation during the Lucknow Super Giants and Royal Challengers Bengaluru match.

When the two Delhi boys reunite in the dressing room, albeit in different roles, sparks are sure to fly. But will these sparks ignite celebrations or drama?

One thing is certain. After the calm and composure Dravid brought, Gambhir’s fire and intensity is worth looking forward to as well.