May 28, 2012

Kolkata Knight Riders

Finally, a winning script

Jayaditya Gupta
A jubilant Kolkata Knight Riders with the IPL trophy, Kolkata Knight Riders v Chennai Super Kings, IPL 2012, final, Chennai, May 27, 2012
Four years of embarrassment and humiliation in the IPL have finally ended for Kolkata Knight Riders  © Associated Press
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The post-match celebrations by Shah Rukh Khan, captured faithfully by the host broadcasters, overran the limits of good taste and induced cringes in all thinking people watching the show. But Shah Rukh can be forgiven his excitement, over-the-top even by his own standards. For Sunday's win capped not merely a season of exceptional cricket by his team but ended, with dramatic finality, four years of embarrassment and humiliation in the IPL. In those four years his team usually made headlines for all the wrong reasons but Shah Rukh stuck by it; when things got especially bad - during the annus horribilis of 2009, when his team finished bottom of the league amidst intrigue, infighting and incompetence - he would seek refuge behind his superstar psychobabble so that no one knew whether he was being serious or not. Sometimes he seemed to contribute to his team's problems - most recently after his team's match in Mumbai, when a post-match altercation led to him being handed a five-year ban from the Wankhede Stadium.

Shah Rukh never gave up, though, and his decision to stick instead of twist, went beyond simple economic or financial reasons. His buying the Kolkata franchise back in 2008 was a bit of a surprise at the time - he had no obvious connections with the city - but soon it all became perfectly clear. He seemed to have a sharp understanding of his franchise, its hometown and its fans. They were emotional and theatrical, so was he and he played them like a finely-tuned harmonium. He invested personally; again, not merely in terms of money - for much of that came from his sober sidekick Jay Mehta. His investment was in the form of his very identity, his status as India's most popular actor. He staked himself. He roped in the sponsors, often those with whom he had personal endorsement contracts; he struck up equations with Bengal's mercurial political leadership, latterly being anointed Bengal's brand ambassador; and he cleared his schedules so that for six weeks he and his gang of high-profile cheerleaders would go from stadium to stadium, usually in the scorching summer heat, to emote, wave flags, jump, shout, dance. And attend the after-parties.

Yet for all that emotion and apparent soft centre, the franchise was capable of taking hard decisions - none more so than in its sacking of Sourav Ganguly before the 2011 auction. It was a huge decision; for the people of Kolkata, Ganguly was far bigger than this upstart franchise. Yet that decision, and the subsequent rebuilding of the team around a new captain and coach, was perhaps the most crucial factor in winning the IPL. The one sentiment that was voiced by the Kolkata players on Sunday night was about team spirit; it wasn't the typical platitutdes of a winning team. An invidious atmosphere, one of distrust, mistrust and bloated egos, was replaced by an honest team ethic and focus shifted to building for the future. The drama was toned down, the team returned to first principles and decisions were once again taken for cricketing reasons.

As I write, the crackers are going off in Kolkata. A city that has long lived on the fringes of sporting success has hit the headlines for the right reasons. It's been said that this Kolkata team had no Bengali stars but that is both incorrect - Shakib Al-Hasan is as Bengali as Ganguly, only from across the border - and an irrelevance. Kolkata was not built by Bengalis alone; one of the first truly global cities, it was built by Scottish traders, by Marwari moneylenders, by Greeks, Armenians, Jews. They were all adopted as sons of the city - as, no doubt, will Knight Riders' rainbow coalition. A Kolkata team owned by two Bollywood stars and a repatriated NRI Gujarati businessman and captained by a Delhi boy - that's sport in the 21st century for you.

Jayaditya Gupta is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo in India

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Posted by Chandan Barnwal on (May 28, 2012, 8:10 GMT)

I'll never never support KKR coz I hate Shahrukh Khan and his cheap publicity stunts. But I m happy for Gambhir. He is an honest player.

Posted by faraz on (May 28, 2012, 7:16 GMT)

Everyone loves to hate SRK. And now, with a very well deserved title, they will hate him even more. But he deserves every bit of praise, because he has made the right decisions as far as the team goes. He supports them not like a owner, but like a common hardcore fan. He has brought so many eyeballs to the show. He is a big contributing factor in the glamour front of the IPL. And honestly, we like movie stars to behave like movie stars. Not like well behaved rich Industrialist Wives. He is a Rockstar. Superstar. If criketers can fight with umpires on field, why can't a movie star, the king, behave crazy. Long Live KKR and SRK.

Posted by pari on (May 28, 2012, 7:04 GMT)

well done KKR , must say CSK had given a tough fight like true champions.lets say two best teams reached finals and the one which held nerve under pressure won ! I just hope now Gambhir , sehwag and dhoni would resolve all their difference within themselves and fight together for team india becoz when team indias united its unstoppable

Posted by Yogesh Tewari on (May 28, 2012, 6:57 GMT)

Well written sir. Shah Rukh Khan relly deservs the win.....the way he supported this kolkata team was fabulous...... a kolkata based team with a mumbai based owner with a delhi boy leading as captian ,a westindian lad guidng the team all the way to finals, n a african great holding th back..............the story of this team is not less than that of a SRK hit movie.........

Posted by Kaustubh on (May 28, 2012, 6:54 GMT)

Brilliant article, Jayaditya! You hit the spot perfectly!! Only low-point: SRK's post-match celebrations, true: they did make me cringe!!

Posted by Masum on (May 28, 2012, 6:27 GMT)

Shakib is Lead for Bangali Kolkata.....His second Home also kolkata....

Posted by Sri1 on (May 28, 2012, 6:26 GMT)

Nicely written conclusion. Kudos to KKR from an ardent CSK fan. I was struck by the vivid diversity of KKR team itself compared to CSK, itself no slouch in the diversity department - KKR had a breathless representation of nationalities, local and global, of faiths and in all departments - truly Indian in inclusiveness . Consider this - a Pakistani great as coach, a rising Bangladeshi star, a Bollywood superstar Khan, a Tamilian bowler, a Delhi captain, rising Indian all-rounders (Bisla, Iqbal, YPathan), an Aussie-NZ-RSA traid (Lee, Kallis, Mc'cullum)as integral parts of the team put together shrewdly for performance. Beautiful, loved the script and the win. The ultra-warm hugs between the sub-continental nation stars irrespective of faith or the past said it all. It would have been a travesty of fairness, ability and inclusivity had CSK won just on the basis of two great semis not consistency, KKR deserved this crown much more.

Posted by Amin Aijaz on (May 28, 2012, 6:07 GMT)

This actually sums it all up.. One of the best articles I've read in a long time. Balanced on the subject and the use of grammar and words makes it a pleasure to read. Well written, Jaya!

Posted by Rajesh Agarwala on (May 28, 2012, 6:06 GMT)

A very correct analysis of situation by Jayaditya Gupta.The Kolkatans root for KKR that had become very evident on 5th May where though many were there for Dada but they were clearly outnumbered in the Eden by true KKR supporters.Unlike PWI where the selection turned from idiotic to bizarre Gambhir stuck with his gameplan and was suitably rewarded by his boys.In the final when both big guns Sunil Naraine and Gambhir failed others took over and showed that twas afterall a team game and SRk and management's decision to handover the reins to Gambhir was totally vindicated.

Posted by Sammy on (May 28, 2012, 5:47 GMT)

"An invidious atmosphere, one of distrust, mistrust and bloated egos..." - definition of Ganguly!!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jayaditya Gupta
Executive editor, India A football lover and a veteran of the print media, Jayaditya sold out on both to join the crazy gang at ESPNcricinfo. It's a decision that often left him wondering whether he'd stumbled into the wrong room by mistake, till he realised that many of his colleagues switch the TV channel from cricket to football when they think nobody's watching. He does have cricketing heroes: Viv Richards and Steve Waugh share space with Steve Coppell (the player and manager) and Bryan Robson (the player!). Having covered two world cups (the football version) and a Champions League final, he can now set his sights on fulfilling other ambitions - including the launch of "Footinfo". Watch this space for more details...

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