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Kolkata Knight Riders skipper Gautam Gambhir holds the IPL trophy along with his teammates. Image Credit: Source: KKR

Kolkata: Gautam Gambhir, former Indian opener and skipper of Kolkata Knight Riders, returns to the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise as the mentor.

The left-hander, who guided Knight Riders to two titles during his time as captain, joins hands with head coach Chandrakant Pandit, announced Venky Mysore, CEO of KKR, on Wednesday.

Gambhir’s previous association with Knight Riders from 2011-17 was nothing short of historic. During this period, the team won the title twice, qualified for the playoffs five times, and reached the finals of the Champions League T20 in 2014. However, the two-time champions finished seventh on the points table in 2023 and the move to bring Gambhir from Lucknow Super Giants could be aimed at winning the third title.

Lump in my throat

Speaking on his return, Gambhir said: “I am not an emotional person and not many things move me. But this is different. This is back to where it all started. Today, there is a lump in my throat and fire in my heart as I think about slipping into that purple and gold jersey once again. I am not only coming back to KKR but I am coming back to the city of joy. I am back. I am hungry. I am number 23. Ami KKR.”

Welcoming Gambhir back to the Knight Riders set-up, Shah Rukh Khan said: “Gautam has always been part of the family and this is our captain coming back home in a different avatar as a “mentor”. He was sorely missed and now we all look forward to Chandu Sir and Gautam in instilling the never-say-die spirit and of sportsmanship they stand for, in creating magic with Team KKR.”

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Gautam Gambhir with his Kolkata Knight Riders' No 23 shirt. Image Credit: Source: Gautam Gambhir Twitter

KKR a global brand

The Knight Riders is a global brand with four professional franchises under its wings — Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the Indian Premier League, Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) in the Caribbean Premier League, Abu Dhabi Knight Riders (ADKR) in the UAE International League T20, Los Angeles Knight Riders (LAKR) with long-term investments in Major League Cricket in the USA and seven championships across IPL & CPL to show.

Kolkata have made three appearances in the IPL final, winning the championship twice. They finished runners-up in the 2021 season, staging one of the most remarkable comebacks in the tournament’s history. TKR’s Men’s Team has won the CPL championship four times in nine years since Knight Riders took over the franchise. They are the most successful team in the Caribbean and hold the unique feat of having an unbeaten season in 2020.

TKR Women, Knight Riders’ was the first ever women’s team to win the championship in the inaugural WCPL in 2022. The Knight Riders Academy has been actively scouting talented cricketers from across India and worldwide for many years. The sole objective of the academy is to identify and help cricketers make an overall round-the-year improvement in their cricketing skills and fitness.

Lucknow's Avesh Khan celebrates a wicket against Rajasthan Royals in 2023 season. The pacer will be wearing Rajasthan colours after being traded during the IPL window. Image Credit: ANI

Avesh Khan, Padikkal trade teams

Meanwhile, Avesh Khan has been traded to Rajasthan Royals from Lucknow Super Giants while Devdutt Padikkal joins Lucknow from Rajasthan during the IPL trading window ahead of the 2024 season.

Avesh has so far played 47 IPL matches and has 55 wickets to his name. The right-arm pacer, who represented Super Giants in 22 matches and picked 26 wickets after joining the franchise in 2022, was traded to Royals for his existing fee.

Devdutt Padikkal, meanwhile, will head to Lucknow for his existing fee. The left-handed batter has 57 matches under his belt and has scored 1,521 runs with the help of a hundred and nine half-centuries. He joined Rajasthan in 2022 from Royal Challengers Bangalore and had represented the side in 28 matches, scoring 637 runs.