Gautam Gambhir has not quite had a happy homecoming as leader of Delhi Daredevils (DD) in the 11th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), presiding over one loss after another in the initial stages of the tournament, following which he has now decided to stand down from captaincy.
Leading Delhi in Gambhir's stead for the rest of the tournament will be rookie batsman Shreyas Iyer, as revealed at a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday. Iyer has been in fine form with the bat so far in the tournament, but hasn't had much leadership experience at the highest level of the game.
The Daredevils are lying at the bottom of the points table with five losses from six games so far in the tournament, with a poor net run rate to go with it. Their latest defeat came at the hands of Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in their first home game of the tournament, in which they failed to chase down a modest 144.
"Absolutely my decision. I thought that I haven't contributed enough, and at the same time the performance of the team. I had to take responsibility being the leader of this ship, and I owe that responsibility. I feel that it was the right time because we are very much in this competition.
"So, absolutely my decision, no pressure from the franchise. They've been absolutely supportive about it," said Gambhir, when quizzed if the decision to step down was entirely his own or not.
Gambhir's surprise announcement comes two days before the side's seventh game of the competition, in which the Daredevils were set to host Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), the team that Gambhir had led to two title triumphs (2012 and 2014).
True, that I’ve stepped down from DD captaincy. Just to clarify it was my call, nothing from the management or coaching staff. I may not be leading from the front but I will be the last man standing for @DelhiDaredevils. No individual bigger than d team. Very much a #DilDIlli
— Gautam Gambhir (@GautamGambhir) April 25, 2018
Iyer faces a massive challenge ahead of him as he gears up for his maiden stint as captain in the cash-rich league, although the Mumbaikar sounded confident as far as assuming charge was concerned.
"Well I'm really loving the responsibility they've put up on me, also the faith they showed upon me. I love facing challenges as I've said in my previous interviews as well.
"It's a great opportunity for me to prove myself and also to get the team to the highest level possible," Iyer said at the presser.
When asked about his thoughts on his immediate future with the Daredevils, Gambhir said: "It's too early for me to decide on that. Let me sit down and decide. Still need some time. It's about what DD achieve, is what's more important to me than what I achieve. We still have a great chance to turn things around. Let's talk about DD, and not myself."
Delhi coach Ricky Ponting, who was appointed in the role ahead of the 11th season, added that it would be his, as well as Gambhir's responsibility to groom Iyer as a leader.
"It's my job, it's Gautam's job, it's all the player's job now to make Shreyas' job as easy as possible on the field... A big part of coaching is to ensure the captain's got everything he needs, and is well-prepared for the challenge. So, there's no extra pressure on Shreyas Iyer at all," said the former Australian captain, who added that he is "proud" of Gambhir for taking the bold decision.