The Knights Riders ‘Cricologue’

Ankit Banerjee

Two minutes shy of the zero hour, on the 27th of May 2011 at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, charismatic tinsel town badshah Shah Rukh Khan danced as if there was no tomorrow. A fan shouted `korbo-ed, lorbo-ed, jitbo-ed re` and we knew that the five-year old drought was over. The Knights had ousted the Chennai Super Kings to become the new kings. The celebrations instantly started off from the streets of Hazra to the gali`s of Manicktala. The Bengali `bhadrolok`(a Bengali term meaning gentleman) had turned into everything besides being `bhadro`. We could understand what the victory meant to a region which boasts of a rich sporting culture.

The Bengali society can neatly be divided into two sections. They are either `ghotis` or `bangals`. `Bangals` came from East to West Bengal at the time of partition, `Ghotis` always lived in the West. Ask a Bengali he will either like Pele or Maradona. A Bengali`s team is either East Bengal or Mohun Bagan, Brazil or Argentina. And of course the two don`t meet eye to eye. This is serious stuff in the life of a Bengali and not a laughing matter. Bengalis can spend hours debating these things at Jadavpur University canteen addas or on the `Rock`(an area outside the college where people hang around and have animated discussions) outside Asutosh College, or at pubs like my favourite `Olypub`. Support is absolute, rigid and never-changing.

For over four years KKR promised a lot with big names like Gayle, Akhtar, Brendon McCullum, Ponting and our very own Dada aka “The prince of Calcutta" as Sir Geoffrey Boycott would often put it. But the saga of losses and failures kept plaguing the team and it seemed the term `consistency` just didn`t exist in their dictionary. Team boss Shah Rukh Khan initially stood behind his Knights as if they were his ‘kids’, but as the Knights made it a habit of registering defeat after defeat it just seemed like SRK was losing the plot. He was not to be seen at the Eden Gardens as often as in the past. Things were melting from bad to worse. There were even rumors doing the rounds that `Red Chillies’ were thinking of selling the franchise. The Prince was showered with `hatredism` from die-hard fans and was subjected to criticism from the Indian media. The team looked to be in a state of royally glorified mess. John Buchanan tried his best but to no avail. Although the team boasted of big names in their ranks, they could not click as a unit.

SRK was compelled to take a decision that Bengalis would find unpardonable . Shah Rukh Khan first stripped his friend and skipper of the Knight Riders Sourav Ganguly of captaincy, and then, as they say in big corporate houses, `let him off`. The decision provoked the home crowd to display their frustration, often in a violent way. The fans felt the treatment towards Dada was sheer injustice on the part of team management. Filling Dada`s big shoes was a tough task. The newly appointed skipper of KKR Gautam Gambhir struggled initially to get accepted by the fans of Bengal. But as time passed he started leading from the front and improved the team’s performance with each game. Gambhir had a new bunch to deal with. Ganguly crossed borders and signed up with Subroto Roy`s Pune Warriors franchise. Gambhir-led KKR started notching up victories and in the process winning hearts of the KKR fans. He had already made his team into a match winning unit. There were many factors that made it possible, the prime factor being Gambhir`s ‘Narine card`. Throughout the tournament Gambhir used the mystery tweaker wisely and effectively.

The USD 700,000 man from the `Caribbean Isle`, Sunil Narine is one of the few instances in IPL history where a big buy reaped value for money in the first season. Gambhir holding the mystery man Narine back for the death overs became a regular trend. This meant that the batsmen had to score off other bowlers, gifting their wickets away in the process. Narine could spin the ball both ways and also had a lethal carom ball in his arsenal, and on the slow, low and puffy Eden Gardens he proved to be more than a handful. The batsman facing him looked more like confused goalkeepers saving penalties not knowing which side the striker would opt for. Gautam Gambhir led from the front with the furniture in his hand and set examples for others to follow. He was also the highest run-getter for the KKR. Team India opener Gambhir was in sublime form and also held the key for the team`s success. Again we could witness nearly a lakh people thronging The Eden Gardens to cheer their men in purple and gold. The entire SRK brigade comprising of tinsel town actors like Arjun Rampal, Priyanka Chopra, Ritiesh Deshmukh among others, were seen shouting `korbo lorbo jitbo re` in full volume. We could feel, yes it`s finally time; Kolkata`s craziest of crazy KKR fans had been waiting for this since possibly the 6th B.C.

This year the task at hand is much bigger, it is the Champions League T20. But KKR start hot favorites looking at the composition of their unit, but all said and done T20 cricket is a different kettle of fish, hence nothing can be predicted. The Knight Riders will again be facing probing questions like, ‘was IPL-5 a fluke? Can Gambhir lead his franchise to become the best cricketing franchise in the world? Will Narine be able to create the same impact on hard and bouncy South African pitches? Will Yusuf Pathan finally stand up and be counted? And the biggest question of them all will be, can an out-of-form Gambhir inspire his team considering the fact they will be playing on foreign soil?

But as of now let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope the Knight Riders from Kolkata can be the rulers of the World. Let’s just end by saying “KORBO, LORBO, and JITBO RE”.