Bollywood superstar and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) co-owner Shah Rukh Khan helped lift the spirits of the two-time champions after they crashed out of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 following a 15-run defeat to Sunrisers Hyderabad in the hard-fought Qualifier 2 on Friday, May 26.
Khan revealed he had to cancel his travel plans to Mumbai for the IPL final, scheduled for May 27, but insisted the Knight Riders were "awesome" throughout the 11th season of the cash-rich league.
The actor also lauded captain Dinesh Karthik's efforts, calling him a "fabulous leader" as the Kolkata-based franchise missed the final berth by a close margin at their own backyard — Eden Gardens.
"Well was not to be. Will have to cancel my flight but KKR well done. U did yourself proud. All of u so so well done. Love you & yes I am smiling. Thks for the entertainment & so many moments of glory. V r an awesome team! (sic)," Khan wrote on Twitter.
Khan thanked the team management, including head coach Jacques Kallis, batting coach Simon Katich, and bowling coach Heath Streak, for the team's run to the knockout stages despite "naysayers".
"@DineshKarthik u r a fabulous leader. A special thanks to the management which made this possible despite naysayers...@VenkyMysore @jacqueskallis75 #Simon Katich #Heath Streak #Andrew Leipus @adrian_leroux @arsrikkanth & all of u. #KKRHaiTaiyaar(sic)," Khan's post read.
KKR were undone by Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan's all-round brilliance on Friday. They let the teenager smash 34 runs off 10 balls towards the end overs and had no answers to his spin bowling as they fell 15 runs short while chasing 175.
However, it is safe to say the Knight Riders punched above their weight in the ongoing season. Not many expected the two-time champions to do what they've done, especially after it was opined they had assembled an "underwhelming team" after letting go of title-winning captain Gautam Gambhir.
KKR had spent their entire purse of Rs 80 crore and managed only 19 players at the auction. Australia pacer Mitchell Starc's withdrawal came as a huge blow ahead of the season and U-19 World Cup star Kamlesh Nagarkoti's season-ending injury only added to their woes.
However, under Karthik's able leadership, KKR made the best use of their resources and finished third at the end of the round-robin league stage behind the SRH and Chennai Super Kings. The team management was not afraid to hand key responsibilities to youngsters, including their U-19 stars Shubman Gill and Shivam Mavi.
The likes of Chris Lynn, Andre Russell, and Sunil Narine stepped up and came up with consistent performances throughout the season. Skipper Karthik himself played the finisher's role as he continued his fine run with the bat for his new franchise.
KKR may have missed the bus in the ongoing season but they have the right mix of experience and youthful exuberance to challenge for the title in the future.