Make it or break it: Shah Rukh Khan to Gautam Gambhir after replacing Sourav Ganguly as KKR captain
Nine years after he was handed over the reins of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Gautam Gambhir revealed what team co-owner Shah Rukh Khan had told him before IPL’s fourth season in 2011.Updated: Jun 25, 2020 09:56 IST
Of all current eight franchises, Kolkata Knight Riders perhaps had the most blistering beginning to their IPL campaign largely due to Brendon McCullum’s swashbuckling unbeaten 158 in the inaugural match of the tournament back in 2008. Built on the charisma of Bollywood’s ‘King Khan’ Shah Rukh Khan and Indian cricket’s most feisty leader Sourav Ganguly, KKR, however never lived up to the early hype, at least for the first three seasons. Failing to qualify for the knockouts even once, KKR went for a complete makeover ahead of IPL 2011.
In came new players, a new support staff, a new approach, and above all a new captain in Gautam Gambhir. The former India opener was fresh from a match-winning 97-run knock in the final against Sri Lanka that won India their second ODI World Cup after 28 years.
The change was showing. With new players like Yusuf Pathan, Jacques Kallis, and Sunil Narine in their ranks, KKR started to make the move. The ultimate result was achieved in 2012 when Knight Riders beat Chennai Super Kings in the final to win their maiden IPL title.
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Nine years after he was handed over the reins of KKR, Gautam Gambhir revealed what team co-owner Shah Rukh Khan had told him before IPL’s fourth season in 2011.
“This is your team, make it or break it, I will not interfere… I just promised him one thing, I don’t know where it’s gonna happen but by the time I leave, whether it’s gonna be three years or six years, this franchise will be in a much better position,” Gambhir said in Star Sports show ‘Cricket Connected’.
Gambhir indeed left KKR a better side. With two titles – in 2012 and 2014 – they are arguably one of the best sides of IPL after Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings currently.
“You don’t say that he’s (Gambhir) captain cool, he’s the guy who will take a bullet for his players, he’s got all passion. So when you’re standing with Gautam, you’ll never stand alone. So that’s what we did with KKR,” said former KKR team director Joy Bhattacharya in a show called ‘22 Yarns With Gaurav Kapur’ while explaining Gambhir’s captaincy style.
Gambhir’s consistency at the top, his aggressive captaincy, and backing of young and raw talents like Sunil Narine, Suryakumar Yadav, Andre Russell made KKR a formidable unit. Gambhir had scored 590 runs in 16 matches at a strike rate of 143.55 – his best ever in IPL - when KKR lifted their maiden trophy in 2012.
Gambhir, who led KKR for seven seasons, is also the franchise’s highest run-scorer with 3345 runs in 122 matches.
The left-hander was let go by KKR when the franchise went through another overhaul ahead of IPL 2018. Gambhir was replaced by India wicket-keeper batsman Dinesh Karthik, under whom KKR finished third in IPL 2018 but failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2019.