Gambhir’s $2.4M Gamble Shah Rukh Khan Stunned as Budget Poured on Narine at IPL 2012 Auction

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Former Indian Cricketer Gautam Gambhir: Elevating Kolkata Knight Riders through Strategic Choices

When it comes to transforming the fortunes of a cricket team, Gautam Gambhir’s role in Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) stands remarkable. Taking charge as the captain in 2011, Gambhir ushered in a new era for the team. His unique approach to leadership and his eye for talent became evident during the IPL 2012 auction. A significant decision emerged from his vision – the resolute determination to acquire spinner Sunil Narine, even if it meant exhausting the entire budget.

Gambhir’s Entry and Transformation of Kolkata Knight Riders

Gautam Gambhir’s inclusion as the captain in the Kolkata Knight Riders’ squad proved to be a turning point. In the initial three seasons of the IPL, KKR had struggled to secure a playoff spot. However, with a strategic investment of $2,400,000 (equivalent to INR 11.04 crore), Gambhir’s signing breathed new life into the franchise. The substantial amount spent on acquiring him paid off as KKR managed to outbid competitors such as Pune Warriors India, Kochi Tuskers Kerala, and Mumbai Indians. Notably, KKR secured two IPL titles under Gambhir’s leadership in 2012 and 2014.

Gambhir’s Foresight: Identifying Sunil Narine’s Potential

Sunil Narine: From Obscurity to IPL Stardom

One of Gambhir’s characteristics was his forthrightness, especially regarding his views on a captain’s involvement in auctions. Sunil Narine, then a relatively unknown player, caught Gambhir’s attention with his exceptional skills. This prompted Gambhir to persuade co-owner Shah Rukh Khan to prioritize Narine’s acquisition during the IPL 2012 auction.

Gautam Gambhir’s Vision Unveiled

Telephonic Conversations and Conviction

Gambhir, though absent from the auction due to India’s tour of Australia 2011/12, was in regular communication with CEO Venky Mysore and Shah Rukh Khan. His strong belief in Narine’s potential was clear during these conversations. Despite skepticism from Mysore due to Narine’s obscurity, Gambhir was resolute in his stance. In a conversation with TNN, Gambhir revealed the discussion:

Gambhir: “What’s the budget for the auction? How much can we spend?”

Khan: “Two million. But who is this player? Are you certain about him?”

Gambhir: “Absolutely. If the budget is two million, then we’re going all in. We want Narine, no one else.”

Khan: “If you’re certain, we’ll make it happen.”

Gambhir’s conviction paid off, as Narine was secured for a sum of $700,000 (approximately INR 3.5 crore). It’s essential to note that Narine’s limited international exposure at the time was primarily during West Indies’ tour of India in 2011. Before the ODI series, Narine’s impressive performance in the Champions League T20 2011 caught the eye, showcasing his potential as a game-changing bowler.

A Pivotal Figure in Kolkata Knight Riders’ Legacy

Fast forward 11 years, and Sunil Narine’s contribution to the Kolkata Knight Riders remains indispensable. Although Gambhir moved on from KKR before IPL 2018, Narine continues to shine as a core player for the franchise. Retained for INR 9.50 crore before the IPL 2014 mega auction, Narine’s association with KKR extended until 2017. Subsequent years saw Narine’s role diversify, even acting as an opener between 2017 and 2019. Despite a dip in performance post-2018, KKR’s faith in Narine remained unwavering. He was retained for a reduced price of INR 6 crore before the IPL 2022 auction.

An Unwavering Legacy: Sunil Narine’s Influence

163 Wickets and Counting: Narine’s Undeniable Impact

Sunil Narine’s effectiveness as a mystery spinner is highlighted by his 163 IPL wickets at an impressive economy rate of 6.73. This statistic cements his position as the eighth-highest wicket-taker in the history of the tournament and the highest for Kolkata Knight Riders. Beyond his on-field prowess, Narine’s impact extends off the pitch. A video shared by the franchise revealed CEO Venky Mysore’s admiration for Narine, emphasizing his significance beyond IPL cricket.


Gautam Gambhir’s foresight and Sunil Narine’s unwavering commitment have intertwined to create a lasting legacy for Kolkata Knight Riders. Their collaboration, rooted in strategic decisions and cricketing excellence, continues to shape the franchise’s journey. From a captain’s determination to invest the budget in an unproven talent to a spinner’s transformation into an IPL stalwart, their story resonates as a testament to the power of vision and dedication in the world of cricket.

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