They say, that your first love is the hardest to forget. It is paramount attachment wherein your hopes and future are pinned to the one you love. And if your second relationship is an unhappy one, forgetting your first love becomes more painful.
Let us understand the above paraphrase in the context of Kolkata Knight Riders. KKR was, and continues to be, one of the most popular leagues in the Indian Premier League (IPL) due to its association with celebrity co-owners Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla.
For the first three years, though, the team’s on-field performances came under severe criticism. Match after match, the 65,000-strong crowd at the Eden Gardens went back home disappointed. The disappointment reached a point where even SRK, and the team’s then icon player Sourav Ganguly, could not pull a crowd at the stadium.
Jump to the fourth edition of the IPL in 2011, which promised a new dawn for the side. The squad was thoroughly revamped. Prince of Kolkata, Ganguly, was not retained by the management. Gautam Gambhir was signed up for $2.4 million (11.04 crore INR) in the auctions and was appointed the skipper. The rest, as they say, is history.
Gambhir made Kolkata fall in love with KKR once again. The team qualified for the playoffs for the first time in 2011, and won the cup in 2012. The next season KKR performed poorly but then in 2014, they lifted the IPL trophy for a second time. The team also made it to the finals of the Champions League but was defeated by Chennai Super Kings.
In 2016 and 2017, the Men in Purple and Gold finished fourth and third, respectively. With all these achievements, not only did captain Gambhir revive IPL craze in Kolkata, but also became the city’s adopted son and the fans’ first love.
So when he suddenly decided to part ways with KKR from the year 2018 onwards, the fans were faced with a major heartbreak. Gambhir, in the interim of seven years as the Kolkata skipper, became the fans’ first love. Dinesh Karthik was roped in as his replacement, under whom KKR finished third last year.
But this year, Karthik’s extremely disappointing captaincy – under which the team has lost five games successively – has made fans miss their first love even more.
KKR, for the first time in eight years, has gone back to being the least competitive side it was from 2008-2011. The brand which Gambhir built for KKR, has been washed away within two years.
This tweet led to a huge wave of emotions among fans for whom Gambhir and KKR were synonymous to each other.
It’s tough to see @KKRiders go down like this. Come on guys there is loads of talent in that dressing room. Just regroup fast, believe in yourself and go for the kill. We can do it!!!!!!
It is a well-known fact that the Delhi cricketer possesses one of the sharpest brains in Indian cricket. KKR CEO Venky Mysore and co-owner SRK had little to no idea about who Sunil Narine was, but it was Gambhir who convinced the management to buy the West Indian in the 2012 auctions.
The mystery spinner played a crucial role in KKR lifting the trophy that year. In 2017, Gambhir promoted the bowler as an opening batsman, a move that got KKR blistering starts every second game.
Gambhir always believed in giving longer ropes to his players – be it to Yusuf Pathan or Suryakumar Yadav. Had he still been at the helm of the team, Kuldeep Yadav and Robin Uthappa would not have been dropped from the playing XI after one bad performance. This is where the former KKR skipper outdid the current one.
The famous field which he set for Mahendra Singh Dhoni in 2016 had given enough evidence of why Gambhir, on a few occasions, was an even better captain that the Chennai Super Kings' leader.
Unlike Karthik, who is rarely seen backing his players on the field or even conversing with them, Gambhir ensured that his troop was full of life on the field. He was aggressive, a captaincy trait which is a must.
In a 2017 game against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Gambhir threatened to suspend his players if they didn’t defend 131 runs which the KKR batsmen put up on the board.
“I told them whoever dropped on intent should understand that this could be his last game for KKR, at least in my captaincy,” he had said at the post-match conference. Whether for that threat or not, RCB were bundled out for only 49, a total which still remains the tournament’s lowest.
And what was best, was that he didn’t let captaincy get the better of his batting. The southpaw scored 3,035 runs in the seven seasons he played for KKR, leading the batting from the front in almost all the games.
In the middle of KKR’s drowning fortunes, Gambhir gave the fans a fairytale, the threads of which Karthik has been unable to pick up. It is only fair then, for the fans to long for their ‘first love’.