Homecoming, the KKR theme for the season
With the Knights failing to qualify for the play-offs last year, the wait for the passionate fans to see the purple shirts here have only grown longer
It’s no surprise that the Kolkata Knight Riders’ return to their home ground, the hallowed Eden Gardens, after three years has put a spring in their step ahead of KKR’s first home game of IPL 2023 against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Thursday. The clamour for tickets has gone through the roof. KKR fans will no doubt pray for a home team win, even if the connoisseurs among them might relish a cameo from the back-in-form Virat Kohli.
The last three seasons saw the IPL following a rather chequered path, with the marathon league being shifted to the UAE in 2020 at the height of Covid-19 pandemic, it being a stop-start affair in 2021 with the event being split in two parts in India and the UAE while last season, the BCCI played it safe by restricting it to limited venues, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata for two play-offs and Ahmedabad for the final.
However, with the Knights failing to qualify for the play-offs last year (they eventually finished seventh out of 10 teams), the wait for the passionate fans to see the purple shirts here have only grown longer.
Bari Phirchi Ebar, Ami KKR (Coming home this time, I am KKR) is the new slogan for the team in their campaign film, where their talismanic co-owner Shah Rukh Khan has done the voice over. The Bollywood badshah, riding a personal high with the success of his blockbuster Pathaan, will certainly want his team to ride the comeback theme as well in the trying, 10-team format and the buzz is he is likely to be present in their first game at home. Unlike in the initial seasons when SRK would make it a point to be present at most of his team’s matches, he has very clearly passed on the baton to the children, Aryan and Suhana, both of whom are present at the auctions as well as matches these days.
The crowd at the Eden received a major thumbs up from Sunil Narine, the magician, who has now been a part of the KKR army ever since one can remember. Speaking on his Instagram handle, Narine said: "It’s always special to return to the Eden Gardens, where we have got some great memories. The crowd here is one of a kind."
Meanwhile, Nitish Rana, who stood in as their captain in the eleventh hour after an injury to Shreyas Iyer, decided to seek divine blessings alongwith their new head coach Chandrakant Pandit when they visited the Kalighat temple to offer prayers during their pre-season camp here. Pandit, a former international wicketkeeper-batsman who has been installed in the hot seat in recognition of his brilliant report card as coach in domestic cricket in India, has already started playing the loving patriarch’s role to perfection.
"Chandu sir has started inculcating a few small but healthy practice in terms of discipline – be it reporting for the team bus or other issues. I am sure we will reap the benefits of such practice over such a long season," Rana said.
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