The unsung hero of India’s two biggest limited over triumphs since the turn of the century, Gautam Gambhir will hang up his boot, after spending nearly two decades playing top level cricket.

He will play his last match when Delhi take the field against Andhra Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy match starting Thursday.

The former India opener announced his retirement on Tuesday with a video on his social media. One of India’s best openers and a perpetual crisis-manager, Gambhir’s career can be divided into two halves – the consistent international success and the failure to make a comeback thereafter despite his IPL dominance.

Before his farewell match, he spoke about his highs and lows with Indian cricket and shed light on how he felt during some of the most memorable moments on field, not only for him but for the team as well. Top most among this is his knock in the 2011 World Cup final, where he scored 97 to set up India’s historic win.

However, he insists that the championship-winning knock only came because Virender Sehwag was out so early, he had no time to think, only bat.

“When I had to go into bat, I didn’t even realise when I was in. Off the second ball, Viru got out and took a referral and by the time I realised what was happening, I was already standing in the middle, not thinking anything,” he told CricketNext in an interview.

“Had I got the opportunity to think or openers played 10-15 overs, the occasion could have got the better of me. The innings got over, I was just getting seated with my pads and I was out in the middle and facing Lasith Malinga off my first ball. When you are in the middle, you only think of what is coming next towards you and tackle that,” he added.

Talking about his affinity for the big stage – he was the final’s highest scorer in the two World Cups that India has won this millennia – he spoke about his childhood dream was not to score 10,000 or 15,000 runs but lift the trophy. That is why the disappointment of missing out in the ODI format in 2007 still rankles him.

“2007 was also probably one of my lowest moments in my career because I missed out on a place in the 50-over World Cup side to the West Indies. Even now sitting here, I feel I should have been part of that World Cup, I was so close to getting selected. I thought that my childhood dream will never come true, because till that time the T20 World Cup was not conceived. I remember it was in February, I missed out on making the squad and I didn’t pick up the bat for two months.

“That year taught me a lot of things, how things can change so quickly. February I was down in the dumps and then September I ended up being part of the winning World Cup side. In a span of 5-6 months, everything changed completely, so that taught me a lot of things. It was the biggest learning lessons in my cricketing career,” he was quoted as saying.

Talking about the second part of his career, he said that leading Kolkata Knight Riders to two IPL wins taught him about leadership. He also singled out former coach and captain Anil Kumble as one of the best captain he has played under.

“IPL taught me how to be a leader. I have played under a lot of captains but I have played under very few leaders. One of those was Anil Kumble. He was the best captain that I had for a very long time. He didn’t captain India for a very long time, whatever little I played under his captaincy I knew that India missed out on a leader who could have taken India to a different level. He taught me things how to become a leader and a perfect role model for me,” Gambhir said.

You can read the full interview here