IPL 2019: Will Gautam Gambhir turn into a Knight once again?
Gautam Gambhir is truly one of the greatest cricketers to have played in the IPL. Only Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have scored more than Gambhir's 11-year tally of 4,217 runs from 154 matches.
David Warner is the only person who has as many half-centuries as Gambhir does - 36. Moreover, Gambhir has notched up 500 runs in an IPL season on three occasions, and in one (2017) he finished just two runs shy at 498.
His batting exploits on their own make him one of the legends of the world’s most storied 20-over league. And when you throw in the fact that he is one of only three captains to have led his team to more than one IPL trophy, his status looks even more exalted.
It is not without reason that Gambhir is credited with turning around the fortunes of the Kolkata Knight Riders. Bought from Delhi Daredevils for $2.4M ahead of the fourth season of the IPL, Gambhir set about in his role of leading the team to glory.
Success came calling in his second season in charge itself, as KKR clinched their maiden IPL trophy. Gambhir led the batting unit of the team with 590 runs at a strike-rate of 143.55, steering the ship to safety on more than one occasion.
He held the cup aloft two years later again, this time scoring 335 runs at a strike rate of 114.33.
Even in his last season with KKR, in 2017, Gambhir scored as many as 498 runs. But his desire to return back to his home team Delhi Daredevils led to the Kolkata franchise opting not to retain him.
The Daredevils welcomed their ex-player back at a relatively cheap price of Rs. 2.6 crore, and subsequently handed him the leadership role as they sought to improve their own fortunes.
Gambhir’s season began with promise as he scored an early half-century, but quickly changed into disappointment. After six matches that had yielded a mere 85 runs, he stood down from the captaincy and subsequently found himself out of the playing XI.
Shreyas Iyer took charge of the side, while the young gun Prithvi Shaw took Gambhir's place as opener and scored heavily. With the auctions around the corner, DD released their own boy Gautam Gambhir after the arrival of Indian national team opener Shikhar Dhawan.
It doesn't seem too likely that all the franchises would be lining up to pick the 37-year-old, as he is well past his prime days. However, Gambhir's stats in the Vijay Hazare Trophy show that he could still be a force to reckon with; he scored 518 runs at an average of 51.80 in that tournament.
Moreover, the Knight Riders owe a lot to Gambhir; he is the person who led them to both their IPL triumphs. It is possible that they could make a bid for their former captain at the upcoming auctions.
If that happens, KKR's opening combination could change to Lynn-Gambhir, which would push Sunil Narine down the order. The presence of a class batsman like Gambhir at the top could allow Lynn and the other big hitters to play their natural game.
Gambhir has seen a lot of success at KKR, and it can't be denied that a lot of his best memories in the T20 tournament have come in the purple outfit. Delhi Daredevils might be his home team, but the Knights' jersey has been a source of inspiration for him, something which brings the best out of him.
Gambhir is a favorite among the Kolkata fans too, and will be readily welcomed if he is bought by KKR. Dinesh Karthik can still remain the skipper of the franchise, having led them so well in 2018 but the presence of a senior cricketer like Gambhir can bring a sense of calmness in the team that is comprised of so many big-hitters.
Further, Gambhir can also help mentor all the youngsters that KKR has like Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shubman Gill and Prsasidh Krishna.
The bottomline is that KKR should seriously think about getting Gambhir back for good, keeping in mind the numerous advantages and rich experience that he will bring to the table.