His absence from the IPL Season 4 bidding had the rumour mills buzzing. And following Sourav Ganguly’s exit from Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and the League itself, the buzz has only got louder. A ‘No Dada, No Eden’ campaign has been launched on Facebook and a ‘Ban SRK’ campaign flagged off in Kolkata where his effigies are being torched.
Many Ganguly loyalists believe that Shah Rukh Khan had remote-controlled their Maharaj’s fall from Durban, South Africa, where he’d taken off for a show and his non-appearance in Bangalore was just an eyewash. “I had committed to the show a year ago. And decided last year itself not to take part in cricketing decisions since that’s not my forte. I left it to the experts like Wasim
(bowling coach Wasim Akram) and Dav (coach Dav Watmore) to decide on the team composition and they thought that after three years, they wanted to go in for some younger players,” reasons Khan in Singapore between rehearsing for the Zee Cine Awards.
Well, they have picked a team that looks really good on paper. “So did the last one,” points out the superstar franchise owner with a wry smile. “Gautam Gambhir… Yusuf Pathan… We have some fantastic new recruits but the fate of KKR will depend on whether they get cracking on the day of the match.”
Reportedly, after Ganguly and Brendon McCullum, Gautam Gambhir, who’s being touted as India’s future captain, will be leading the Knights this season. And it was apparently on the leadership issue that Dada got the boot. “Who will be captain is not my decision to take but Gautam looks like a sound bet. Dada and I have a personal equation. I’d like him to continue with the team. Obviously, he can no longer come on as a player but he could be a part of KKR’s think tank. I call him Dada but Sourav is like a younger brother. We’ve been good friends and continue to remain so,” Khan says.
He could come on Ganguly’s game show,
, or invite Dada on his own show,
Zor Ka Jhatka
, as a guest to show the world that all is well? “I don’t need to prove anything to anybody,” Khan retorts. “I had a pick of three-four teams but I chose Kolkata because I’m fond of Sourav and because it’s the most passionate sporting city in the country,” he explains. “It breaks my heart that despite my best efforts I have let the team, the city and my own down. For three years, I’ve grappled with issues like the lights going off in Eden, the venue shifting to South Africa, a ‘fake’ IPL crow among others. I’ve cried with my children as we lost close matches. I want to win the cup for Kolkata.”
Will we see him in the stands this year? “I’ll be present for the matches played at Eden Garden. I was there last year too, except for the last two because my friend, colleague and Juhi’s brother, Bobby Chawla, suddenly fell seriously ill,” he says.
What if he is no longer welcome in the City of Joy? “I know passions are running high at the moment. But I’d be very disturbed if I was not allowed in. I pray that people of Bengal give us a chance to play without controversy and pressures,” he implores. “Give us a chance, give Dada a chance. Don’t give up on us!”