Sunday, April 24, 2011

Shahrukh Khan Says: The kids comprehend what progress intends to the individuals of Kolkata:

 The smile is back and so are his dimples. Kolkata Knight Riders owner Shah Rukh Khan is getting good vibes again from his new and rejuvenated outfit. He's being seen more often at matches. He's also enjoying himself and is hopeful of the Knights walking away with the title this season.
In an exclusive interview to TOI, King Khan spoke at length about his team, the performances this season and other things. Excerpts. How would you put the new Knight Riders' team and turnaround in perspective.

I've been saying this all the time that I am a sportsperson by nature and I'm here because I love the game. Winning and losing are part of it. Team wise, maybe earlier we had made a few mistakes and so we thought of areas to correct ourselves. What is nice to see is how the 15 boys who sit in the dugout are enjoying themselves. They're professionals who are gelling well and there's a smile on their faces which says it all. These players realize the phase we went through in the first couple of years when we didn't perform well. So, in that sense they know what success would mean to the people of Kolkata. Controversies seem to have become an integral part of brand KKR...

Yes, we as a franchise have always been plagued with controversies. Something like that is likely to happen because of the profile of the franchise and the fact that it's owned by a movie star. For instance, that mole in our franchise, who was made a hero on television - there are people who like to indulge in mischief. But we'd like to concentrate on what we do and in that sense we're enjoying ourselves. The team, staff, coaches, they're all a part of the unit which is not very big and I've always wanted that. In fact, I think we have the smallest unit and I don't go around behaving like a team owner with them.

Sourav Ganguly's omission from Knight Riders created a lot of buzz. It was unfortunate that we couldn't retain Dada but we had to go through a change and try and do something new and different. But Dada was always going to be part of our plans. We want him around to be there and guide the new team. But maybe we couldn't get our message across properly to the people of Kolkata and it became an unnecessary controversy.

You admit that your profile as a movie star adds a lot to Brand KKR. Does that put extra pressure on you?

I'm in a profession which is about dealing with pressure more often than not. This so called "high profile" has tags attached. So, I never take it personally. Everyone believes whatever I do, I'll do it well because that's the image. Whenever I take up any kind of a business or job, I keep in mind that I have to go out there and give my best. Sometimes I feel bad for the boys when they take too much pressure on themselves. I ask them to chill.

You were on the field after the win against Rajasthan Royals last week, enjoying yourself playing cricket. Is it something you missed doing in the first three years when KKR wasn't doing very well?

I've done this before and I've always enjoyed the game. I used to play a bit of cricket myself and I have this passion for the game. That evening, I was standing for the presentation ceremony after which I saw Pathan, Gavaskar saab and Warne out there. Warne's a great friend and I've been a fan of Gavaskar. So I just walked out there to enjoy myself, batted against Warne, bowled to Gavaskar.

Win or lose, Knights are easily the most popular franchise. Eden Gardens is erupting again.

I am happy to see the crowd coming back at Eden Gardens. The new look of the ground is wonderful and I'm looking at things getting better as we go on. We will still be the most popular team when we win the tournament and that's what we're looking at. My job as an entertainer is to provide what I can but eventually, it is about cricket. We were failing at our core job. There was something wrong. We relooked at things, tried doing it differently. And now we've started on a different note. We are one of the few owners who don't belong to the city. We want to give the feeling that we are local boys and want to play for Kolkata.

Earlier you spoke about IPL featuring too many matches and how too much of cricket wouldn't work. How do you see the present situation with 10 teams?

They haven't increased the number of matches a lot which is good. I had spoken earlier about 91 matches being too much. Thankfully, matches have increased by just six or seven more. What is now going to happen is you will choose your favourites. Like Chelsea and Manchester United in English Premier League. There'll be a difference between local viewership (city-based following) and television rating. Popularity will singularly become the catch word and fans will end up watching favourites. What is good about this league is pricing is capped, which means talent is equally distributed. This is unlike European football in which teams who can afford to buy costliest players have maximum talent pool.

Have the Knight Riders managed to break even?

We've had a break even every year. Our sponsors, especially Nokia, have stuck with us through thick and thin and we are really blessed. We are the only non-corporate franchise in IPL. Our gate receipts have been good. Earlier, I used to be the focus, now I'm slowly becoming incidental, which is good. Let me be honest, most of my sponsors have been very kind about utilizing me, so the focus has been on the team.

You've wrapped up your movies this year. Was it a conscious decision to stay free during IPL? I was working on two films and physically they were very demanding. But I'm still not free from work, I'm doing advertisements. But I've kept my days off during matches.

You're off twitter. You tend to switch off at times. I am somebody who leads life the most natural way. When I work I need to connect with people, so I come out and talk. I was using twitter to make myself vocal. But people kept saying things. The world has become such now that everything has an agenda to it. So I walked away.

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