IPL diary: Gambhir the mentor looms large as Eden turns purple again

"It’s your franchise, make it or break it": Kolkata Knight Riders' owner Shah Rukh Khan's words to the former KKR captain have gone viral

Gautam Gambhir’s portrait up for sale at the entrance of Eden Gardens on 23 March (photo: National Herald)
Gautam Gambhir’s portrait up for sale at the entrance of Eden Gardens on 23 March (photo: National Herald)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

A mentor or one of their marquee stars? The hype that Gautam Gambhir’s return to the Kolkata Knight Riders family as a mentor has generated in IPL 2024 has to be seen to be believed – hence it was no surprise that the former captain was one of the portraits up for sale by a street artist at the entrance of a magical Eden Gardens on Saturday evening, 23 March.

The first of Super Saturdays of the 17th season of IPL was made memorable by the comeback of Rishabh Pant after his life-threatening accident in another part of the country, but the colour of the historic venue in Kolkata was purple this evening.

Notwithstanding the acquisition of Mitchell Starc or the batting line-up looking well-rounded this season, the passionate KKR fans are banking on the inputs of Gambhir desperately to recreate the magic after five indifferent seasons.

The social media is abuzz with stories of how the KKR management actually managed to woo Gambhir from Lucknow Super Giants, which had fared consistently under him to make back-to-back play-offs in their first two appearances.

The perception is that it took Shah Rukh Khan much persuation, and presumably a blank cheque with the repeat of the actor’s famous lines to Gambhir 13 years back when KKR broke the bank for him as a player-captain.

KKR fans flash victory signs outside Eden Gardens
KKR fans flash victory signs outside Eden Gardens
(photo: National Herald)

Speaking at an event at the team hotel a few days back, the normally reticent Gambhir revealed: ‘‘He (SRK) only told me the same thing that he had told me when I joined KKR as a player in 2011: This is your franchise, make it or break it. He told me exactly the same thing. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I can assure you that whenever I leave this place, we will be in a much better position.’’

No wonder, Gambhir has a prominent presence around the city with pumping fists, in the hoardings along with the likes of captain Shreyas Iyer, Mitchell Starc, Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Rinku Singh & Co. It’s the kind of rockstar treatment even Sachin Tendulkar has not received during his years of mentorship at Mumbai Indians – while the only other person who can match such adulation is Mahendra Singh Dhoni if he ever takes over as the mentor for the Yellove.

One has to wait for the season to unfold to find out if ‘GG’, as he is nicknamed, can do the turnaround in the Knights’ fortunes like he did as a player. His arrival has effectively sidelined veteran Chandrakant Pandit, the man with an enviable CV as a coach in India’s domestic cricket, but then that’s IPL for you - where nothing succeeds like success!

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