Gautam Gambhir has rubbished claims he covered up a shoulder injury to play in the IPL, saying he did play with discomfort in his right shoulder but was never aware of the extent of the problem. Gambhir said he had felt the discomfort during the World Cup final but as it wasn't too painful he didn't think it was a major injury, and hence played the IPL, in which he captained Kolkata Knight Riders. Gambhir could now miss India's tour of the West Indies, where he was to captain the side during the limited-overs leg, but insists he never put his franchise before playing for India and would not have risked worsening his injury had he known its nature.
"Any modern cricketer knows that by feigning or risking injury he is only jeopardising his own career," Gambhir told the Hindustan Times. "It is imaginative to say I was covering my injury to play in the IPL. I played with discomfort without realising the gravity of my injury. As a leader, my team needed me, but to say I preferred club over country is ridiculous."
On Wednesday, Kolkata's team trainer Andrew Leipus wrote a letter to the BCCI saying Gambhir had complained of a sore shoulder when he arrived in Kolkata for the IPL and subsequent scans had shown a serious injury that would require four to six weeks to heal. The letter said Gambhir recalled landing on his arm during the World Cup final and feeling acute pain. Gambhir said he did not think it was a major injury at the time.
"I felt some discomfort during the World Cup final, while running between the wickets. It didn't seem major as it wasn't very painful at the time. Any professional cricketer, playing all three formats, will tell you that niggles are all part of the system."
Gambhir admitted he might have aggravated the injury during Kolkata's group-stage match against Mumbai on May 22 in Kolkata but he still didn't think it would be a problem. Asked why he played Kolkata's next game, a knockout match in Mumbai on Wednesday, despite Leipus having already written to the BCCI, he said he had not spoken to Leipus about the injury before the game.
"There was an instance during Sunday's clash against Mumbai Indians when I threw the ball from deep point and felt pain in my right shoulder. I thought it would be fine with a bit of icing or at most I thought I'd get a scan in Mumbai.
"I had an MRI in Mumbai and Leipus got the report. We didn't discuss it as I was preparing for Sunday's game, which was a knockout. It will be misleading to blame the BCCI, Andrew or the Kolkata management for this. I don't think anybody intended to cover up things here."
Gambhir defended his commitment to the national team saying that he had actually played through injuries when his country had needed it.
"I know how hard I have worked for my national cap and what it means to me. Not many people know that in 2008 I played the Ranji Trophy final against Uttar Pradesh with a swollen left hand. Earlier this year, I played the last Test of the South Africa series with an injured left hand. The swelling was so bad I could barely wear a glove. I am proud of the 93 and 64 I got on one of the most difficult pitches. It is embarrassing to publicise my commitment but I have no choice."
He also said missing out on leading India in the West Indies would be a huge setback. "I am so keen to lead the side that even during the breaks between IPL matches I'd discuss with Yusuf Pathan our strategy for conditions in the West Indies. Now let us see how it goes. I hear there will be a fitness test and only post that things will get decided."
Gambhir's opening partner Virender Sehwag also aggravated a pre-existing injury during the IPL and is likely to miss the Tests in the West Indies. The injuries have sparked a debate over the importance given to the IPL by the BCCI, players and franchises and whether players' involvement in the IPL puts them at risk of missing international fixtures.