Chennai, Apr 7 : The Indian Premier League is already a huge hit but India's recent World Cup triumph has increased the level of interest among the people for the fourth edition of the Twenty20 tournament which begins here tomorrow, feels Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir.
With his 97-run knock in the final against Sri Lanka in Mumbai Last week, Gambhir played a crucial role in India's second World Cup title which came after a hiatus of 28 years.
"India's win in the World Cup has brought the nation together. It has increased the interest for IPL and it is good for Indian cricket. There is tremendous amount of craze for IPL," said the Delhi left-handed batsman from Delhi, who will lead a new Knight Riders against Chennai Super Kings in the inaugural IPL match of this season.
The World Cup-winning Indian players barely got five days rest before the IPL, and Gambhir said it would be tough on the cricketers to adjust to the shortest format of the game after a gruelling 43-day of highly-competitive 50 overs cricket.
"It (Twenty20) is a different form of the game. ODIs are completely different compared to Twenty20. It is going to be more challenging because no one got enough time to prepare," he said.
"But as a professional cricketer you have no excuses. The World Cup is just over and now we are looking forward to the IPL. We have an important game coming up tomorrow. We are really excited about this. As a professional cricketer you need to lift yourself for challenges.
"All of us are professional cricketers and we have played lot of cricket. We are used to quickly adapting to situations. We had some meetings and spent some time together. This is more important than spending time on the field," Gambhir added.
Asked how it feels to be on the opposite side of Chennai Super Kings skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, whose inspirational captaincy guided India to the world title, Gambhir said, "I am looking forward to it. My heart and soul is with Kolkata though I am a Delhi boy.
"I am going to go out there and give everything. It is a different tournament. In the World Cup we play in the same team but in IPL we play against each other. We will go out there and give our hundred per cent."
"I do not want to talk about what Chennai is doing and what their strategies are. To me, what is thrown at us is important. But we are ready to take up any challenge," he added.
He, however, refused to compare his cricketing brain with Dhoni and said playing for the country is his biggest inspiration.
"I think India is inspiration for me. I play for my country and it does not matter who inspires me a lot. I play for my tricolour. What MS does is what he does. For me, it is important what I do," Gambhir said.
The new Knight Riders captain rejected theories that there will be added pressure on the team following its poor showing in the first editions of the tournament.
"There is no extra pressure on us. Whatever has happened during the last three years is history. You got to look forward and we are moving forward. We are concentrating on the upcoming tournament. We have a great support staff and talented bunch of boys," Gambhir said.
Asked about the players at his disposal tomorrow, he said, "We need to be positive and not bother about what we have and what we do not have. There are opportunities for other people to go out and perform and will also show our bench strength.
"(Laxmipathy) Balaji and Jaydev (Unadkat) are excited about the tournament. But presently, we do not have Brett Lee and James Paterson."
The Chepauk pitch came in for sharp criticism during the World Cup for its low and slow nature but Gambhir predicted a sporting track for tomorrow's match.
"The wicket, I think, will have good carry and good bounce. Chennai is always a good wicket. There will be lot of runs on this track. It will be an even contest," he said.
"The wicket looks different to what was used in the World cup. We do not have big stars but got some quality spinners like Iqbal Abdullah and Laada," Gambhir insisted.
He also refused to divulge whether he will play explosive Yusuf Pathan or English batsman Eoin Morgan tomorrow.
"It is secret. I cannot disclose it right now. Both are quality players," Gambhir signed off. PTI