How did Gautam Gambhir recreate the purple wave once again?

It could be a subjective observation, but it seemed Gambhir wanted to invoke the spirit of his two heady years in 2012 and 2014 by keeping the faith in his old matchwinners Sunil Narine and Andre Russell. The Trinidadian mystery spinner, with whom Gambhir gambled by forming an unlikely opening pair with Phil Salt, paid rich dividends by scoring 488 runs and 17 wickets to emerge as the MVP (Most Valuable Player) for the third time after 2012 and 2018, respectively.

A major difference between KKR’s playing XIs this year and the last few seasons have been that the team management had assigned specific roles for each player and decided to stick with them through thick and thin. Now on his third season as an IPL mentor, Gambhir had realised that the introduction of an impact player has changed the game with new benchmarks being set in terms of targets – and hence this team would need more firepower lower down the order.

Once Narine started delivering with the bat in his gung-ho style, it created room for an additional power hitter in young Ramandeep Singh at No.7 with the likes of Rinku Singh and a fit and hungry Andre Russell above him. Gambhir had gone on record that he wanted to create a clone of Yusuf Pathan from his times in the current climate and the sturdy Ramandeep did not disappoint him in his limited outings.

 Meanwhile, much has been said and written about the way the two finalists: KKR and Sunrisers Hyderabad had broken banks to net the two big fishes – Mitchell Starc (at Rs 24.50 crores) and Pat Cummins (Rs 20.50 cr). Gambhir, who was given a carte blanche in the last mini auction in Dubai, was hugely instrumental in going for the decorated Aussie and the later repaid the faith with telling blows in both the qualifier and the final. The deliveries which got the dangerous Travis Head and Abhishek Sharma in the respective matches over the past week were simply a masterclass in swing bowling.    

With the help of hindsight, one can say that a head coach or mentor’s job becomes easy when the going is smooth – but this is where the role of Shreyas Iyer as captain has to be given its due. It was with quite a baggage that Shreyas entered the 2024 season – his central contracts gone, question mark over his integrity over the protracted back injury and ignored for the T20 World Cup despite being in prolific form in the 50-overs showpiece, the Mumbaikar did his job with quiet assurance.

 ‘’The hype is definitely created by you guys (media). Where I stand (as a skipper) is definitely on you (to decide),’’ the skipper replied in response to a media query if he felt overshadowed by Gambhir. However, the history of the franchise will show Shreyas is only the second KKR skipper after his mentor to have lifted the trophy!

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