Gautam Gambhir may have sat out Delhi Daredevils' IPL game against Kolkata Knight Riders but there was no dearth of support for the veteran opener at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Apart from those wearing the number 23 Delhi Daredevils jersey with Gambhir printed on the back, there were 21 others who would have loved to see Gambhir play on Friday.
They were family members of the CRPF men who lost their lives in a naxalite attack in Sukma district of Chattisgarh on April 24 last year.
It may be recalled that immediately after the massacre last year Gambhir announced lifetime support for education of the children of these martyrs through the Gautam Gambhir Foundation.
Speaking to PTI, Gambhir said: "It's been almost a year that these children lost their fathers in the attack. You can still see some moist eyes, some blank faces and confused smiles.
"These tender hearts seem to be caught up between the magnitude of their fathers' sacrifice and its practical impact on theirs and their families' lives. We can't repair much except support them in whatever humble way and give them small pleasures like taking them to Ferozeshah Kotla to watch a game.
"I'd like to thank DD CEO Hemant Dua who provided complimentary tickets and team merchandise for the families and children."
On Thursday night, after finishing his training session with Delhi Daredevils, Gambhir spent some time with seven children and their family members at a hotel in the capital.
"Our interaction was full of fun, tears, laughter and promises. Almost all of them wanted to know why I stepped down from DD captaincy. I tried explaining it to them but none of them looked convinced," Gambhir said with a smile.
Amongst the children were Lavisha Sandhu and Rohit Sandhu from Karnal in Haryana. They are children of martyr Ram Mehar and were accompanied by mother Poonam and their grand father Prem Singh Kajal.
"When the Sukma attack happened a lot of people made a lot of promises but it's only Gambhir who has kept his word. Well, he may not be the captain of Delhi team any more but for me he is a leader for life."
Ajay Boran, son of martyr Bana Ram was invited from Neem Ka Thana in Rajasthan. Sisters Amisha & Kashish Sharma live in Palampur in Himachal and were sad that they couldn't watch Gambhir play.
Their father Sanjay Kumar was also one of the martyrs in the Sukma attack.