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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gautam Gambhir fit for England, ready with a batting plan

India's star opener Gautam Gambhir today declared himself fully fit for the upcoming cricket tour of England for which he has devised a specific batting strategy to counter the seaming conditions there.

Gambhir, who skipped the ongoing tour of West Indies due to a shoulder injury, reckoned that "mental adjustment" will be a key to the Indian batsmen overcoming the conditions in England and said certain strokes would have to be avoided.

"I am back at my full fitness and feeling fresh both physically and mentally. The pain that I had in my shoulder is gone," Gambhir told PTI in an interview here.

"Before returning from Bangalore I batted in the nets against the likes of S Sreesanth and I didn't feel any discomfort. Even in Delhi I will resume practice in a day or two," he said.

The 29-year-old left-hander, who has 3234 runs in 38 Tests at an average of 51.33, will be playing Test matches for the first time on English soil if he is picked for the series starting July 21.

All excited about the challenge, Gambhir said he is working hard on his game.

"I think it begins with mental adjustment. One has to see the ball early and play it late. For some time now I'm not playing on rise. At the top level one has to tighten up his game and I have done that," said the batsman who has 4073 runs in 114 ODIs at an average of 40.73.

"In England, for first few balls you can't drive on the up till you are very sure. There are certain other strokes one should avoid. The rest I'd do it when I reach there," he added.

In the interview, Gambhir spoke about a range of issues, including his relationship with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and former India coach Gary Kirsten and the cramped international schedule.

Gambhir was still fuming about the furore his IPL stint created after it came to light that he was carrying a shoulder injury while captaining the Kolkata Knight Riders before their eliminator match against Mumbai Indians.

The injury, which Gambhir picked up during the World Cup, eventually ruled him out of the ongoing series against the West Indies, where he was initially chosen to lead the side in the ODIs after Dhoni took a break.

Asked whether he could have avoided the controversy by opting out of IPL after first experiencing discomfort in his shoulder, Gambhir said, "I think the whole episode was a bit unnecessary, just a ploy to sell news. The most unfortunate part was that it somewhat took the limelight away from the good work done by Kolkata Knight Riders."

"I feel sad for guys like Iqbal Abdullah, Manoj Tiwary, Shaqib-Al Hasan, Rajat Bhatia and many more who had done so well in IPL but because of this unwanted controversy the focus shifted somewhat. Look, I have always been committed to the team that I represent, that's my upbringing.

"My family values have taught me to be committed and that's what I do for a club team, state team, country or a franchisee. I know how hard I have worked for my India cap and what it means to me. I can't deride the honour of playing for India," he asserted.

But his focus is completely on England, where India is scheduled to play four Tests and five ODIs, and Gambhir said Andrew Strauss' men are the team to beat right now.

"Well, let me get picked first. If I am, like always I'd put my heart and soul into the effort to get my team to a good start. I think England is the team to beat besides South Africa at the moment.

"They have their tails up boasting a world class bowling attack which has really tall fast bowlers and a spinner who is pretty good as well," he said.

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