Shah Rukh Khan at the launch of the Discovery Channel series titled Living with KKR in Mumbai on Thursday. Picture by Sudeshna Banerjee
Fans of KKR worried for their team, lend Shah Rukh Khan your ears. The boss believes he has got 90 per cent of the team the think tank had planned for through the IPL auction.
“Ideally, I would have loved to get 10 more players. But that’s not how it is. We need to stick to the choices. We had got more flak for our choices earlier. The whole idea is we should be proud of our team. All the boys who play for Calcutta automatically belong to the city. Gautam (Gambhir) is very much from Calcutta now,” Shah Rukh told Metro in Mumbai on Thursday.
He said being a Knight or a fan of the Knights was all about having a “feeling of ownership”.
“It has to come from the city. And I don’t think any city loves its franchise more than the people of Calcutta love KKR. We have to be a national team. That’s how it should be,” SRK added.
The co-owner of the Kolkata Knight Riders had earlier addressed the media for the first time since the new-look KKR was put together for the upcoming IPL season. The occasion was the Mumbai launch of a Discovery Channel series titled Living with KKR that documents the germination and blossoming of a champion team.
“We wanted to go for two of the Indian players from (the defunct) Pune (Warriors) — Yuvraj Singh and Robin Uthappa. We tried for Yuvraj and didn’t get him. But we got Uthappa,” Shah Rukh said.
Explaining the choices at the auction that baffled many fans, SRK said coach Trevor Bayliss, bowling coach Wasim Akram and captain Gambhir had worked out a strategy to focus on Indian players. “We wanted to go for the Indian players first and then get the overseas players. The plan was to get three overseas players and shift around the fourth.”
When Metro mentioned the heartburn among fans over KKR not retaining the “Bengal boys”, SRK said he missed them too!
“Laxmi (Ratan Shukla), Manoj (Tiwari) and (Mohammed) Shami flourished in KKR. Manoj hit the winning runs (in the IPL-5 final) and Laxmi played so well in the semi-final. But in an auction, it becomes a choice between being emotional and being professional. We couldn’t match the higher prices. In fact, they fetched high prices because of their stint with KKR. We tried to retain as many as we could. Even Brendon (McCullum) we had to let go of. (Manvinder) Bisla too almost got away,” he said.
Shah Rukh hopes the Bengal trio will drop by even if they are no longer Knights. “I hope they come to attend our matches when free. They will surely be chatting with the boys in the changing room when they come.”
The Bolly superstar said he was looking forward to seeing the only two Bengal players in the team, Debabrata Das and S.S. Mandal, making their mark. “We have got some local boys. We will groom them like we did those three (Laxmi, Manoj and Shami).”
King Khan is also ready to spread the KKR franchise beyond cricket. “Affiliations are being worked out for the league of the Ambanis (being launched by Reliance Industries with Rupert Murdoch’s STAR India). I am serious about it if they choose us. We are in talks for two others sports. But we don’t want to be a fly-by-night outfit that has its finger in too many pies.” he said.
Shah Rukh admitted his company had been trying to pick up a stake in Goan football club Dempo but not anymore. “What’s the point being in two leagues?” he said.
But one thing Calcutta can be sure of. “If it’s football, it will be Calcutta. Where else will there be so much frenzy over football? Inshallah, we will have a Calcutta football team too,” he signed off.
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