Gautam Gambhir’s return to the Indian team in late 2016 raised hopes of the opener regaining his place in the squad. But an inconsistent run along with the emergence of KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan meant that India’s most experienced active Test opener had to return to domestic cricket once again.Gambhir has since been working hard on his batting and fitness. The diminutive left-hander went back to the domestic circuit and is grinding it out in the Ranji Trophy this season. His hard work paid off recently with Delhi making it to the Ranji final as they beat Bengal by an innings and 26 runs in the semi-final on Tuesday.Gambhir top-scored in the match with 127, his 42nd first-class hundred, to guide his team to a big win over Bengal. But it was not just his batting which helped Delhi, his experience in international cricket and leading the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League was also hugely beneficial.Gambhir’s impact in the Delhi team was best summed up by Navdeep Saini after the semi-final triumph over Bengal. The young right-arm pacer picked up three wickets in the first innings and four in the third to finish with a career-best 7 for 79 in the match.Saini was full of gratitude for the veteran opener and said that he “owes his life and success” to Gambhir.”I owe this life and my success to Gautam Gambhir. I was a nobody and Gautam bhaiyaa did everything for me,” Saini said.Saini was supposed to go to South Africa as a net bowler for the Indian team, but Ankit Rajpoot of UP is being sent instead.advertisement”I was happy that I would go to South Africa but I called up Gautam bhaiyya. He said Delhi needs you now for the semi-final and if you do well, you will be automatically in that Indian dressing room. I didn’t think twice,” said Saini.Gambhir recognised Saini’s talent during the 2013-14 season when he saw the wiry pacer at the nets and even got into a heated argument with DDCA vice president Chetan Chauhan, to get the player from Haryana into the Delhi team.”Gautam bhaiya, Ashish bhaiya (Nehra), Mithun Manhas rallied around me. They said what’s happening in the periphery shouldn’t be my concern. We will take care of that, you only bowl,” he said, recalling the time when DDCA officials were distributing pamphlets to keep him out of the team.Even though he is not captaining the Delhi side, Gambhir makes sure to inspire his teammates and lead by example. He is a master at spotting talent and giving opportunities to youngsters be it in the IPL or in domestic cricket.The 36-year-old completely transformed KKR’s fortunes ever since he came on board in 2011 and immediately led the team to two IPL titles in the span of three seasons.From languishing at the bottom of the table for the first three seasons, KKR is now among the top-four teams in the IPL under Gambhir. The former Delhi captain believes in providing chances to young players and has always stuck by that policy even when he’s not captaining a side.