Last year, Delhi was knocked out before reaching the knock out stages in both Ranji Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy. They won only two of their eight first-class matches, in the six one-day games, they managed three wins.
Not only that, Delhi’s performance was marred by the off-field conflict between then captain Gautam Gambhir and coach KP Bhaskar. Gambhir had accused Bhaskar of making some youngsters feel "insecure" and "dividing the dressing room". Both had to be summoned by High Court-appointed Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA) administrator to resolve the issue.
Gambhir lost his captaincy to Ishant Sharma, while KP Bhaskar continued as coach. With Ishant on national duty, 20-year-old Rishab Pant led Delhi into the finals of the Ranji Trophy this season, where they will play first-time entrants Vidarbha.
"DDCA has been in the news for all the wrong reasons," Gambhir tells ESPNCricinfo. "Deep down, each and every player that I have played with or the support staff that I have been involved with... [for us] it hurts. Sometimes it is good when you feel bad about something that has been said about you or your team or your association. That hurt actually was the trigger point.”
Gambhir explained that the issue between him and coach Bhaskar didn't affect the youngsters in the team, "There's a lot said about the difference of opinion that I had with the coach, and that was taken to various extensions. And that led to a bloody-minded attitude which was only about winning the competition and winning the next game. We wanted to show the world that it's not only the negative that exists in the Delhi dressing room. There is positivity, there are things we want to do to restore the glory days of the association which has given me my identity and a platform to play for India."
He praised the way Rishab Pant led Delhi in absence of Ishant Sharma; he said, "I think Rishabh is learning, the good thing is that he wants to learn, he wants to evolve as a player and as a captain. Rishabh can plan and strategise, but if you can't pick 20 wickets, then all those plans will be canned. So it doesn't really matter whether you are a young captain or an experienced captain.”
Gambhir was the captain of Delhi team in 2007-08 season when he scored a century in the finals to lift the trophy. Now he is the senior most players in the team, with the majority of the team under 30 years of age.
"We are just one step away from recreating what we did in 2007 and it's a really proud feeling," Gambhir says. "The young boys are playing the first final of their life in top-grade cricket. It will help them mature not only as cricketers but as individuals also. Playing the final will be an experience they wouldn't have had ever in their life. For a sportsperson, nothing can be more pleasurable, nervous, anxious and at the same time satisfying.”
He continued,” The batsmen set things up but it's the bowlers who win you games. I won't say that it's only the spinners, it's also the guy who is bowling at the other end, whether he's a fast bowler or a part-time spinner, who has ensured the pressure that has been exerted from one end continues at the other end as well."
Gambhir wants his teammates for giving it their all against Vidarbha in the finals, which starts from December 29th.
"I would want people to think that the players tried their best," he says. "For me, that is the key. If you try your best, whatever the results may be, that is irrelevant. But if you give your 200%, that's what counts."