Gautam Gambhir shares his experience of replacing Sourav Ganguly at KKR in 2011

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Gautam Gambhir

In the high-octane world of Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket, leadership transitions can be tumultuous. When Gautam Gambhir stepped into the shoes of the iconic Sourav Ganguly as captain of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in 2011, the cricketing universe held its breath. Would there be a backlash? Would the fans revolt against this audacious move?

Gautam Gambhir’s tenure as KKR Captain

Gambhir, a gritty Delhi cricketer, found himself at the helm of KKR, a franchise with a passionate fan base and a storied history. Replacing Ganguly, the “Prince of Kolkata,” was no small feat. The expectations were sky-high, and whispers of discontent echoed through the cricketing corridors.

But then something remarkable happened. As Gambhir led KKR onto the hallowed turf of Eden Gardens, the city of Joy embraced him. The cacophony of cheers drowned out any lingering doubts. The fans, clad in purple and gold, rallied behind their new skipper. Gambhir’s bat spoke, and Kolkata listened. The love he received was overwhelming, defying all predictions of backlash.

“When I got picked in 2011,” Gambhir reminisced on R Ashwin’s YouTube channel, “a lot of people told me that there would be a lot of backlash because you’re replacing someone like Sourav Ganguly. But I remember my first game in Kolkata—the amount of love I received was unimaginable.”

Never once during his seven-year captaincy did Gambhir feel like an outsider. Kolkata became his home, and the fans his family. The cricketing divide—those who adored Ganguly and those who embraced Gambhir—melted away. The Eden Gardens, with its sea of faces, became a sanctuary where cricket transcended rivalries.

“Never thought I would receive that kind of love because a lot of things were spoken about when Sourav was replaced, but never once in my 7 years of captaincy, I was made to feel that I did not belong at Kolkata. That’s my relationship with the people of Kolkata. I have said it in the past, not because I have led the team, Kolkata is my home. That’s the emotion I carry.”

In 2012, when KKR faced Sourav Ganguly’s Pune Warriors India, the stadium was a canvas of divided loyalties. Purple and blue clashed, and the air crackled with anticipation. An article in The Telegraph boldly declared, “Bengal will be divided for the second time after partition.” Yet, amidst this tension, Gambhir found solace.

“I remember this one game we were playing against Pune Warriors. I think the entire stadium was divided into Purple and Blue. I think Sourav was playing for Pune Warriors India and there was this huge article on match day in the Telegraph. I still remember ‘Bengal will be divided for the second time after partition’. It was the headline on the front page,” Gambhir said.

Gambhir’s tenure as KKR captain yielded two IPL titles (2012 and 2014). His leadership, steely resolve, and the unwavering support of the Kolkata faithful etched his name in the annals of IPL history. The man who replaced a legend became a legend himself.

As the rain-soaked Eden Gardens reverberated with cheers, Gautam Gambhir knew he had found a second home. The backlash never materialized; instead, love flowed freely. Kolkata, with its passion and fervour, had adopted him. And in that embrace, Gambhir discovered that sometimes, cricket transcends boundaries—even those as formidable as replacing a beloved icon.

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