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Gauti: Yuvi one of India’s greatest match-winners

New Delhi: Gautam Gambhir on Tuesday joined Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh in defending Yuvraj Singh for his below par performance in the T20 World Cup final and described the Punjab left hander as “one of the greatest match-winners of Indian cricket”.

Talking to the media during a promotional in the capital, the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) skipper said that given a chance he would still like to have Yuvraj Singh in his squad for the IPL.

Asked what he had to say on the criticism Yuvraj was facing since the T20 World Cup final, Gautam said no cricketer ever targeted the middle order batsman. “Yuvraj is only being criticised by the media.

“I consider Yuvraj as one of the greatest match-winners of Indian cricket. We all are aware of his contributions in the 2007 and 2011 World Cups. You can’t criticise someone for not delivering in one match… that’s unfair. To me, he is still the great player as he was four or five years back,” said Gambhir.

The opening batsman, who was a leading member of the triumphant Indian teams in the 2007 T20 World Cup and the 2011 World Cup, made it clear he was still keen on getting Yuvraj in the KKR team. “We also wanted to recruit him (Yuvraj) but the deal was finally clinched by the Bangalore (Royal Challengers Bangalore) team. If you ask me, I still want him,” said Gambhir.

The IPL VII, beginning on April 16 in the UAE, Gambhir said, would be an exciting tournament. “I had never played in the UAE before. That’s an exciting prospect. We are playing Mumbai Indians in the first match. It’s always good to play the defending champions early in the tournament. Moreover, the match would be played on a neutral venue… that’s good. Mumbai won’t get any home advantage,” he said.

Gambhir said the presence of South African pacer Morne Morkel would be a great help for Knight Riders. “I have played against him and found him the toughest. This I am saying even after playing Dale Steyn, Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar. With Sunil Narine also in the team, we would have a formidable bowling attack.”

Asked whether the Indian batting had become too dependent on Virat Kohli, the KKR skipper said such things should never be said about a team sport. “It had never been like that… not even when Tendulkar was in top form. Cricket is a team game and would always remain so.

“In T20 cricket, one team gets to play only 20 overs that is 120 balls. It is quite natural the first three batsmen would always get the chance to score more runs. That’s natural,” Gambhir explained.

On his chances of returning to the Indian team, Gambhir said he was hardly thinking about it. “My focus is on KKR and the IPL.”

Virender Sehwag has shown form in the zonal phase of Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 tournament, and Gambhir was asked why he still would have gone for Yuvraj and not Sehwag for KKR.

“Well, it was a part of the strategy and the decision is taken by at least 5-6 people. We wanted Yuvi more and that’s why we bid for him.”

Has anything changed after Sehwag has come back as an opener? “I don’t think anything has changed for me as I was always opening the batting. I have never had any plans of batting in the middle-order. I started my career as an opener and would like to end as an opener,” he said.

Gambhir had a good outing in the zonal leg of the Mushtaq Ali Trophy, scoring 162 in five matches with 75 as the highest score.