Three moves that shaped KKR’s class of 2024 | Crickit
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Three moves that shaped KKR’s class of 2024

May 28, 2024 12:28 AM IST

The winning transformation was led by mentor Gautam Gambhir who knew the pulse of how KKR operate and brought the winning touch

Shah Rukh Khan gave his signature step from the movies a break; instead, he blew kisses. The celebrity co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders enacted Harshit Rana’s send-off to Sunrisers batter Mayank Agarwal, which led to the pacer being suspended for a game and docked the entire match fee. The rest of the squad joined in as the group photo turned Rana’s on-field transgression into a celebratory move.

The match lasted only 29 overs while the celebrations went into the early hours of Monday. (ANI)
The match lasted only 29 overs while the celebrations went into the early hours of Monday. (ANI)

The 22-year-old pacer from Delhi took 19 wickets – second highest for KKR, behind spinner Varun Chakravarthy’s 21 – in KKR’s third IPL triumph, which was wrapped up in style at Chepauk on Sunday with an eight-wicket thrashing of SRH in the final.

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The winning franchise owned by celebrities showed it knows to celebrate. The players, support staff and owners changed into a ‘Champions 2024’ purple jersey. Mitch Starc’s stirring opening spell had ensured the effort that went into its printing didn’t go waste.

The match lasted only 29 overs while the celebrations went into the early hours of Monday. The bonding at the ground after victory gave a peek into the making of KKR’s class of 2024.

Shah Rukh, the de facto brand ambassador of the franchise who led the victory lap at Chepauk, made the first move – bringing in Gautam Gambhir, who led KKR to the first two titles, as mentor. And two of Gambhir’s decisions before the season began set up KKR’s dream run, after topping the league table.

STARC BID

The foundation of successful IPL teams is laid on the auction table. After Gambhir’s return, the first big move KKR made was in the Dubai auction room of making Mitchell Starc the most expensive IPL buy at 24.75 crore – it is 4.5 crore more than their winners’ purse. KKR CEO Venky Mysore would later explain: “Every team slices up its 100 crore worth purse differently, this was our strategy.”

The Australian pacer took time to warm up to IPL action but towards the business end of the tournament, his opening bursts won the knockout matches. In a run-heavy season, the playoffs were almost like a separate competition. One saw fewer first innings totals in pressure games – 159, 172, 175 and 113. Starc stole the show in both the matches KKR played.

Three match-winning showings are generally asked from top buys. By the end of the tournament, Starc had delivered even more as his 17 wickets show. Equally importantly, the left-armer brought his leadership to the bowling group. Before Starc found his rhythm, Rana had stepped up with his T20 smarts. After Starc found form, the two became a force.

“Mitch just discovered what his strengths are how Indian conditions would suit his strength. Once he understood that, it was magic all over,” KKR bowling coach Bharat Arun said.

THE NARINE CARD

When Gambhir joined, he was familiar with the workings of the franchise but Sunil Narine was the only regular in the playing eleven from his 2014 champion team. The strategist in Gambhir identified the West Indies bowling all-rounder as a potential match winner with the bat and encouraged him to open the batting again, and play with the freedom he once did. Narine had his most successful run with the bat, scoring more runs (488) than his collective efforts of the previous five seasons.

“The backing of the support staff, especially GG (Gambhir) just saying “go there and enjoy it, just try to win a few games for the team. I am not asking you to do the entire season, but just a few games.” That was very good advice,” Narine said after the win.

One of the less celebrated features of IPL is how established overseas professionals fine-tune their skill sets, even regain their mojo for top-flight cricket. This year’s KKR story has many such examples. Starc returned to IPL after nine years and will go to the T20 World Cup with learnings that only high-level contests can provide.

Narine’s story never grows old. Rarely demonstrative, for once he expressed his joy by lifting Gambhir during the celebrations and the mentor reciprocated.

Andre Russell, in whose all-round match-winning ability the franchise had so much trust that they stood by him when he lost a year for doping violations and later injury troubles, was another grand story. The Jamaican power-hitter held back tears when he said, “I have no other words to express, it means so much. This franchise has done so much for me, from my fitness and everything. It’s a big gift from all of us.”

Chakravarthy hailed assistant coach Abhishek Nayyar for his work behind the scenes in KKR’s mobile academies to prepare the Indian core. Ramandeep Singh played crucial late-order cameos to ease the burden of Russell – the little contributions of importance that Gambhir often talks about.

By the time the night wore on, Ramandeep would have turned into the team DJ, playing loud Punjabi songs. “Ek English song nahi chalte dressing room main. English aati nahi hai,” the heartbeat of the team Rinku Singh said. Russell and Narine won’t mind. They can sway to any music. This was a special win that took ten years coming.

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