‘I want him in my side no matter what’: How Gautam Gambhir signed match-winning off-spinner to KKR
Former assistant coach of Kolkata Knight Riders Vijay Dahiya has revealed how Gautam Gambhir urged the team management to sign off-spinner Sunil Narine in the squad ahead of the 2012 IPL auction. Gambhir, who was appointed in 2011 to lead KKR, in his first season as skipper, took the team to its maiden IPL playoffs and as he tried to better it in the next season, the skipper was sure he wanted Narine in the team.
In the 2011 Champions League, Narine played for Trinidad and Tobago and with a tournament haul of 15 wickets, was instrumental behind the team’s success. Narine’s exploits convinced Gambhir of rewarding the off-spinner with a KKR contract.
“I remember before the auction, he was in Australia, the Indian team was touring Australia. He called up and said, ‘No matter what, I want Sunil in my side.’ And that’s the kind of leaders you need,” Dahiya said of Gambhir to SportsKeeda.
Ever since, Narine has been an integral part of the KKR set-up. In eight seasons, Narine has picked up 122 wickets, making him IPL’s eight-highest wicket-taker including a hat-trick against Kings XI Punjab in 2013. In 2012, Gambhir led KKR to a maiden IPL trophy and repeated it two years later. Both seasons, Narine grabbed 24 and 21 wickets respectively.
Dahiya lauded Gambhir’s leadership skills by citing an example. Yusuf Pathan, after joining KKR ahead of the 2011 season, had a poor season in 2020, scoring just 194 runs. But instead of benching him, Gambhir backed the all-rounder to the hilt, and the decision paid off. Over the next four seasons, Pathan scored 1273 runs with six half-centuries, three alone in 2016.
“He (Gautam Gambhir) is a leader who gives you the freedom to go out and express yourself. If you look, Yusuf Pathan, Gautam Gambhir, and Rajat Bhatia were three players who played all the games in that season,” recalled Dahiya.
“Because of the conditions, Rajat was there, but Yusuf, he was backed. There was pressure on Yusuf because he was not having that sort of a run. Gautam backed him. He had chats with him; the support staff also had chats with him and backed him.”