The Kolkata Knight Riders are a successful cricket team who play in the Indian Premier League and represent the city of Kolkata, in West Bengal. The franchise is owned by a Bollywood legend, a fact that has helped to drive an unexpected fanbase to the team, as well as the support that they get from the locals in Kolkata. The team struggled to live-up to its support throughout its early years, but this changed in 2012 when they won their first title, triggering a change in form and fortunes that would see them win the title again, whilst also putting in some solid performances in non-winning years.
The Kolkata Knight Riders play at the Eden Gardens cricket ground, which is the biggest in the IPL and is the third biggest in the world.
The Kolkata Knight Riders were purchased by Red Chilies Entertainment, which is a company owned by the Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, and by the actress Juhi Chawla and her husband. Although he is not very well known in the West, Shah Rukh Khan is huge in India and many other countries and he was once described as the “world’s biggest movie star” by the Los Angeles Times. It is is no surprise then that many of Khan’s fans suddenly became fans of the Kolkata Knight Riders, giving them a huge fanbase overnight, and one that was bolstered by the support they received from Kolkata.
Kolkata was one of the eight franchises offered for sale following the creation of the IPL in 2007/2008. At the time of the purchase, they cost their owners around $75 million, with the name “Knight Riders” coming from the popular ‘80s TV show that featured David Hasselhoff.
Things got off to a great start for the Kolkata Knight Riders, and they won their first two matches in the 2008 IPL season. However, this was not to last and they suffered a blip in form which saw them lose their next four games. There were some really poor performances amongst these losses and they didn’t make it to the knockout stages of the competition.
Despite their poor run in the opening season, the Kolkata Knight Riders did finish the season as the most profitable team in the league. This was thanks to the huge fanbase and the fact that they had no problem selling merchandise or tickets. They also struck some big sponsorship deals, which again was down to the fanbase and the fact that sponsors knew they would be reaching a wide audience.
Nokia was the main sponsor for the team during the early years and into 2014, with Reebok becoming the kit sponsor. These were far from the only sponsors though and in total the Kolkata Knight Riders accumulated 18 sponsors at once, by far the most in the league. These included radio stations, confectionary brands and soft drink brands. In 2015 they went through an overhaul, getting a number of new sponsors onboard, including Pepsi and Uber.
The Kolkata Knight Riders continued to struggle throughout 2009 and 2010, but they finally made it to the playoffs in 2011 and in 2012, the following season, they went one better and won. This was followed by another disappointing season, and a surprising one at that, but in 2014 they claimed victory again.
They haven’t been the most consistent team in the league, and both of their successful seasons were followed by seasons in which they didn’t even make it to the playoffs, but as of 2016 their two titles in 2012 and 2014 mean that they are the joint biggest winners, tied with the Indians and the Super Kings.
The 2015 captain of the Kolkata Knight Riders, Gautam Gambhlr, is the highest paid player in the team, with a reported salary of $1.25 million. The hope is that the experienced bowler can provide a level-head and can also take the crucial wickets when needed. There have been many other big players that have proved vital to the success of the Kolkata Knight Riders though.
One of the first iconic players of this side was Sourav Ganguly, who had previously captained the Indian national team and helped the Riders through their first few seasons, being released before they won their first title. Shane Bond, Angelo Matthews, Ashok Dinda and Laxmi Ratan Shukla also helped the team during those difficult early years, whilst key players such as Sunil Narine, Shakib Al Hasan, Patrick Cummins and Chris Lynn were there to help them to become champions.