Former Indian cricketer and two-time World Cup winner Gautam Gambhir has slammed the "hero worship" prevalent in Indian cricket — not just among the fans but also in the media. Gambhir said today that this "culture", dating back to 1983 when India had scripted history with their Prudential World Cup (cricket) win, has led to fans hailing stars like Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and Kapil Dev to an extent that they have forgotten or disregarded the contributions of other members of the team.
Reporters asked Gautam Gambhir if he thought that this whole hero worship choked potential stars. "Nobody has grown in that shadow. It was Mahendra Singh Dhoni earlier, it is Virat Kohli now," he said during the Indian Express show "Idea Exchange".
Gautam Gambhir during the interview
The former India opener was initially talking about his approach in politics before he switched to cricket when a journalist asked a follow-up question on brand creation. He said, "Don't create monsters in the dressing room. Only monster should be Indian cricket, not an individual."
India celebrated former captain Kohli after he ended his 1021-day long drought of centuries with a phenomenal 122 in the match. This was his first international century since November 2019 and his very first in T20I cricket, but Gautam Gambhir is concerned that while Kohli did make a meaningful contribution to the match and to India's win, there was another player who was equally wonderful in the game with his record-scripting five-wicket haul: Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
"When Kohli got a 100 and there was this young guy from a small town of Meerut, who also managed to get five wickets, no one even bothered to speak about him. This was so unfortunate. I was the only one, during that commentary stint, who said that. He bowled four overs and got five wickets and I don’t think anyone knows about that. But Kohli scores a 100 and there are celebrations everywhere in this country. India needs to come out of this hero worship. Whether it's Indian cricket, whether it's politics, whether it's Delhi cricket. We have to stop worshipping heroes. The only thing that we need to worship is Indian cricket, or for that matter Delhi or India," Gautam Gambhir said.
"Who created that? It is created by two things. First by social media followers, which is probably the fakest thing in this country because you are judged by how many followers you have. That is what creates a brand."
"Second by the media and the broadcasters. If you keep talking about one person day in and day out, it eventually becomes a brand. That is how it was in 1983. Why start from Dhoni? It started in 1983. When India won the first World Cup, it was all about Kapil Dev. When we won in 2007 and 2011, it was Dhoni. Who created that? None of the players did. Nor did the BCCI. Have the news channels and broadcasters ever spoken about Indian cricket? Have we ever spoken that Indian cricket needs to flourish?" the former cricketer said.
Gautam Gambhir thinks this "hero worship" began in Indian cricket in 1983, with people only talking about then-captain Kapil Dev. He pointed out that the same happened in 2007 and 2011 when India claimed the T20 World Cup and the ODI World Cup respectively under Dhoni's captaincy.
"There are more than two or three people who are stakeholders of Indian cricket. They don’t rule Indian cricket, they should not be ruling Indian cricket. Indian cricket should be ruled by the 15 people sitting in that dressing room. Everyone has a contribution to make… I've never been able to follow anyone in my life. And that has been my biggest problem. The media and the broadcasters create a brand, no one else creates a brand," the cricketer-turned-politician said.