Out of all eight franchises, Kolkata Knight Riders possibly had the most impressive beginning to their IPL campaign mainly because of Brandon McCullum’s dazzling 158 not-out in the first match of the T20 league back in 2008.
Established on the force of personality of Bollywood’s Shah Rukh Khan and Indian cricket’s most spirited skipper Sourav Ganguly, However, KKR never lived up to their early expectation, at least for the starting three seasons. Not being able to qualify for the knockouts even once, Kolkata based franchise went for a complete makeover before the 2011 IPL.
In came new faces, a new support staff, a new outlook, and most importantly a new leader in Gautam Gambhir. Who had just come back from a match-winning 97-run knock against Sri Lanka in the final of the World Cup.
The change was visible. With new players like Jacques Kallis, Sunil Narine and Yusuf Pathan in their team, KKR started to make the move. The end result was fulfilled in 2012 when KKR beat Chennai Super Kings in the final to win their first ever IPL trophy.
Nine years after he was handed over the reins of KKR, Gambhir let out what co-owner of the franchise Shah Rukh Khan had said to him before IPL 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 Cricket Connected.
Gautam Gambhir in fact left KKR. With two titles (2012 and 2014) they are arguably one of the best team in IPL after CSK and Mumbai Indians 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 while explaining Gambhir’s captaincy style.
The left-hander’s consistency, aggressive captaincy, and backing of young and raw talents like Sunil Narine, Suryakumar Yadav, Andre Russell made KKR a intimidating unit. Gambhir had knocked 590 runs in 16 matches at a strike rate of 143.55 – his best ever in IPL - when KKR lifted their first trophy in 2012.
Gautam Gambhir, who captained the side for seven seasons, is also the franchise’s highest run-scorer with 3345 runs in 122 matches.
Gambhir was let go by KKR when the franchise went through another overhaul before the IPL 2018. the left-handed was replaced by Dinesh Karthik, under whom KKR finished third in IPL 2018 but failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2019.