Gautam Gambhir celebrated his 37th birthday just a couple of days back (October 14) and the sheer volume of goodwill and amount of love he received from the fans and former and current colleagues is a testimony of the popularity and respect the left-handed opening batsman has at his command.

The Delhi born lionhearted opener made his One Day International (ODI) debut against Bangladesh in 2003, playing his first Test in 2004 against Australia. He holds the unique record of captaining the Indian team in six ODIs (from late-2010 to late-2011) with India winning all the six matches.

His knocks of 75 runs from 54 balls and 97 runs from 122 balls in the finals of both the 2007 World Twenty20 and the 2011 Cricket World Cup make him stand out as a performer par excellence.

The advent of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008 brought to surface another facet of his cricketing acumen as he captained the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the IPL and KKR won their IPL title twice; in 2012 and again in 2014.

He holds the distinction of being the only Indian to have scored hundreds in five consecutive Test matches.

He was conferred the Arjuna Award, India’s second highest sporting award in 2008. In 2009, he was the number one ranked batsman in ICC Test rankings and the recipient of the ICC Test Player of the Year award.

In October 2018, during the quarter-finals of the 2018–19 Vijay Hazare Trophy, he scored his 10,000th run in List A cricket.

To a question, Gambhir said he will retire the day he feels there are no emotions involved in the game.

Asked what keeps him going on the cricket field and if he has any targets before hanging up his boots, Gambhir told IANS over the phone from Mumbai: “No, till the time I keep scoring runs, that makes me happy. You keep doing it. I think scoring runs, winning, coming back to the dressing room happy, being in the winning environment makes me happy.”

“Till the time I have that passion in me, where I want to come back to a happy dressing room, I want to be a part of that happy environment — I am going to keep going, and the day I feel that there are no emotions involved in it then I would think it’s time to go.”

Has his professional journey been fulfilling or is there any vacuum he can perhaps fill?

“You can always fill in something. There is never an end to your journey and probably the day I would feel that has been achieved, I obviously could not have continued playing,” he said.

“There is a vacuum and there is always something more to achieve in life as well and that is what makes a person work hard and keep going forward as well,” said Gambhir, who in the 2018 IPL auction, was bought by the Delhi Daredevils for Rs 2.8 crore, and was appointed as the captain before he stepped down midway into the tournament.

Gambhir, who attended the Vicks’ new #TouchOfCare campaign launch in Delhi last week, says in 11 years, IPL has become more difficult and challenging.

“That will always happen because new players will come. Challenges will be different, players and franchises will get more smarter. From the first to the eleventh edition, IPL has got tougher, better and more challenging.”

“That is where the most biggest challenge for any sportsman is. If you can keep growing with that challenge, that is what will keep you going,” the southpaw said.

Overall in his career, there are more things to achieve, Gambhir says.

“I’m not going to say that there is not anything left to achieve. Obviously there is something to achieve. That keeps me going,” he said.

(With IANS inputs)