The Kolkata Knight Rider fans owe Shah Rukh Khan an apology – there, I said it! All of us, including yours truly, who ever doubted Shah Rukh Khan’s calibre as an owner to produce a champion team, owe him a heartfelt apology.
KKR has lifted the IPL trophy twice in the last three years now. Only the Chennai Super Kings can boast of such a fabulous record but KKR slowly, but surely, are becoming the “team to beat” in the Indian Premier League.
For a team that made peace with their position at the bottom half of the table for the first four seasons, it’s been quite a turnaround and Shah Rukh Khan deserves all the praise for it. He does because Shah Rukh Khan stuck by KKR for the last seven years, even when we didn’t.
Shah Rukh Khan is the superstar in India and his ventures seldom fail. In fact, even his worst efforts do better than the best of most. But KKR failed – the first three years were miserable.
Money wasn’t a problem. KKR had all the financial muscle, yet every time, they misused it on out-dated stars, who inflicted nothing but humiliation on his side. He had the best Indian captain leading the side, the best coach in the world formulating the strategies, the most devastating T20 opener, the fastest bowler in the world and even recruited the first mystery spinner; yet it didn’t work. Even the change in jersey couldn’t help his team hit the purple patch.
That’s cricket; if you don’t get the combinations right, you can never forge a team that wins consistently. Neither did KKR. For the first three years, KKR was an ensemble of burnt out stars with monster egos. It was dubbed as SRK biggest flop and the anthem of “Korbo, Lorbo, Jeetbo” became a joke.
Even the great Rahul Dravid took a dig at King Khan in one of the IPL award ceremonies. That was it. The Badshah threw the stick in the wheel. He called in the pest control and wiped his house clean. That was his best move and his biggest mistake.
In pursuit of building a new team, he lost his fans – the entire city turned against him. He became the new Greg Chappell. Leaving out Sourav Ganguly was a massive call, but it was the right one. Dada was way past his prime and to be honest, offered very little to the IPL team, as Pune found out very soon. Then there was Mr. Buchanan – a man with weird theories, who treated KKR as a science lab for performing cricketing experiments.
Shah Rukh Khan had to get rid of the dead wood. He did and like it or not, it bore results. After qualifying for the Champions League in 2011, they won the IPL for the first time in 2012.
However, fans in Kolkata didn’t acknowledge it. They were more concerned about their hero’s fate rather than their city’s success. Effigies were burnt, morchas and michils were held, immense disrespect was hurled at the team and then Eden Gardens shamelessly turned into a sea of blue the day KKR took on Pune Warriors – we, Kolkatans, did our best to pull KKR down.
That’s our problem. The entire city is driven by emotions and somehow logic fails to drive home its point. It’s always us against the world because we love to believe that the entire universe has nothing better to do but plot conspiracies against us.
Even today, most people don’t understand the concept of franchise sport here. They fail to grasp that franchise sport has nothing to do with regionalism. Yes, IPL started with the “icon” concept but it had to fade off because the icons had to move over once the stakes went higher. A Virat Kohli and a Gautam Gambhir became more valuable than a Rahul Dravid and a Sourav Ganguly because it was the how the game evolved. But as usual, we refused to evolve.
Then again, nothing succeeds like success and now, the glory hunters are back. This year we have strained our vocal cords cheering for Robin Uthappa and have flooded the social media with “Abb ki baar….KKR” updates because now we have a problem. We haven’t got a hero to support, we are devoid of a cause to rebel and of course, we all want to be a part of a winning team.
And that’s why, every Kolkatan, who despised KKR should extend an apology to King Khan. We need to because Shah Rukh Khan didn’t deserve our wrath. He didn’t deserve the severe criticism either. He could have walked away and KKR would have easily become another Kochi Tuskers or a Pune Warriors.
He didn’t. He didn’t because he was in it for the long haul. He was in it for his pride and so, he stuck his heels in and took whatever we threw at him with immense humility. He cried with the team, danced for them, jumped up and down in stadiums, got roughed up by cops and at times, made snide comments about how he failed as an owner.
It perhaps has been his most difficult journey and he knew that he couldn’t charm his way out of this one. He knew his dimpled smile that melted hearts, won’t win him the IPL and his outstretched arms wouldn’t appease a grieving city.
There was only one way to win Kolkata back – winning. He needed his team to produce results to conquer the city and last night, apart from winning the IPL again, he might have accomplished his bigger mission.
I offer my sincerest of apologies to Mr. Khan. Will the rest of the city do it? Even if they don’t, Shah Rukh Khan won’t leave our side because as he says, “bade bade deshon mein….”