“This was just a stepping stone:” Habib Gandhi now wants to score big and win trophies for Bengal after historic chase for Mohun Bagan

After his historic unbeaten 157 for Mohun Bagan in the P. Sen trophy final, Habib Gandhi made it to the Bengal probable for upcoming white-ball season.
Habib Gandhi after completing his hundred against Bhawanipore club in the P. Sen trophy final. Image: CAB
Habib Gandhi after completing his hundred against Bhawanipore club in the P. Sen trophy final. Image: CAB

Shakir Habib Gandhi was part of the Bengal squad that played the 2021-22 Ranji Trophy semi-final. However, after not featuring in a single game for Bengal, Gandhi found himself out of the Bengal squad in the next season. The left-handed wicket-keeper batter, although knew how to make a comeback. Right after his match-winning unbeaten 157 for Mohun Bagan in the P. Sen trophy final, Habib was called in for 40-men Bengal probable squad for Syed Mushtaq Ali and Vijay Hazare Trophy.

Habib Gandhi shared his thoughts with Sportz Point as he gets himself ready for the big season coming up.

Question: "You were part of the Bengal team that played the Ranji Trophy semi-final. But, post that, you found yourself out of the squad. How did you manage yourself at that time?"

Answer: "Look, I knew I can make a comeback. I wanted to follow the same process I have been following. I did not want to make things complicated. I knew I needed to score runs. I kept things simple. I believed in the process of scoring runs and helping my teams win wherever I am playing."

Question: "During that period, who was there for you, beside you, supporting you?"

Answer: Obviously my family always have been there for me. My mother, father, everyone in my family and my friends know what I can do. Not just at this level, they have the belief in me that I can do well at higher levels too. Their support was always there and it will be there for me no matter what.

"Ghyassudin Khan sir would be happy if he would be alive now but he must be happy there looking at his son-like-student wherever he is."

Late Ghayassudin Khan was the childhood coach of Habib and was instrumental in getting him where he is now.

"Okay with batting anywhere:" Habib Gandhi

Question: "I know your favourite position to bat is opening or number three. However, you did not have the opportunity to open or bat up the order during age-level cricket. Do you feel, particularly in white-ball cricket you suit more as an opener?"

Answer: Yes, I love batting at the top (of the batting order). I always look to play my shots right from the go and batting in the powerplay helps that. But I am flexible to bat as per my team's demand. I am okay with batting anywhere according to the need.

"Never played the bowlers name:" Habib on performing on bigger stages

Question: "As you talked about playing shots from the right go, do you feel this fearless nature of you helps you in big games?

Answer: Yes, there is always pressure in big games. Especially, if you are playing for big teams like Mohun Bagan. It was a first-time experience for me. But since my early days, I have never played the bowler's name. I have always played the ball. Irrespective of what, if you can focus on what you can do best on that given day, gives you more chance of success.

Question: "Post the P. Sen final you told the media that you wanted to stay not out till the end. Does not matter how many you score, you wanted to stay till the end. How does this attitude help you finish games even as a top-order batter?"

Answer: "When you're chasing a big total like 350+ and in a big tournament like P. Sen which I was playing for the first time, you need to play long. I knew if I could stay for long at the crease, I can score runs at any time. I knew a few partnerships here and there will take us close to the total. I had a few good partnerships first with Lalit Yadav and then with (Abishek) Porel and Deepak Punia. So, as I was there for most of the time, my job was to finish the game for the team."

"This inning was the stepping stone of my career:" Habib Gandhi

Question: Do you feel this 157-run inning is your best inning to date?

Answer: I would not say this is my best inning till now. I can say this inning was the stepping stone of my career. I have not done anything good in bigger levels like Ranji Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali yet. So, I would love to play innings like this for Bengal in the coming days.

Question: For you, the job is done yet. You are in the probable of the Bengal team. So, how do you see this as an opportunity for you to get back in the scheme of things?

Answer: I am not planning anything far away. I am not thinking about anything six months away from now. I want to focus on things which are next. My goal would be to do well in the practice games for the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament. I want to gain the trust of the team management that this boy can take the team to new highs and win matches for Bengal.

Question: We have seen you play a reverse sweep while completing fifty. Then, throughout the inning, we saw you play shots all in every corner of the ground. Tell us if you had the 360-game in you from the early days or if you have built the 360-game in recent times.

Answer: Obviously, you know me well. You played with me in the early days. I did not have these shots in my book. But I wanted to develop a game around my mindset which can give me more success in tough times. I practice those shots so that in crunch times I can play those shots to release the pressure.

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