As expected all the top franchises of the Indian Premier League retained their respective marquee players in the first-ever Player Retention event held on Thursday in Mumbai. Defending champions Mumbai Indians stuck with captain Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah, while Royal Challengers Bangalore kept their faith in 'run-machine' Virat Kohli, 'Mr. 360' AB de Villiers, and young Sarfaraz Khan. Two-time champions Chennai Super Kings retained their core squad as MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja all making their way back in the yellow brigade. Australian cricketers - David Warner (Sunrisers Hyderabad) and Steven Smith (Rajasthan Royals) were too retained by their respective franchises.
Amidst all the hoopla around the much-hyped player retention event, there was one decision which caught everyone's attention that was of Kolkata Knight Riders not opting for Gautam Gambhir. If the experts are to be believed, the Shah Rukh Khan-owned franchise were not too keen to retain a lot of players but the exclusion of Gambhir comes as a big surprise. However, the franchises have the option of getting them back via their Right to Match (RTM) cards during the two-day auction later this month on January 27 and 28 in Bengaluru.
Interestingly, KKR management has shown faith in two West Indians - mystery spinner Sunil Narine and attacking all-rounder Andre Russell by retaining them during the event. Under the leadership of Gambhir, the Kolkata-based franchise lifted the coveted IPL trophy twice, in 2012 and 2014. The 36-year old also shares a huge credit for turning things around for KKR with his innovative captaincy, consistent batting performances and selection of certain uncapped Indian and experienced overseas players. Gambhir was snapped up by KKR at the 2011 IPL Player Auction for a record-smashing USD 2.5 million.
In 122 matches for KKR, Gambhir has scored 3345 runs, with 30 half-centuries against his name.
However, there could be a number of reasons behind KKR leaving Gambhir for the 11th edition, it could well be because of his age, his utility as a player in the shorter format or simply it's just time to say goodbye to the old stalwart who had given his all to the franchise. The KKR think tank might have some other ideas in their mind and wants to inject some new fresh blood who can bring a new approach to the table.
The reasons are not very clear but the decision clearly indicates that the relationship between Gambhir and KKR have crossed their expiry date and it is a mature thought for both to part ways cordially. What this move also suggests is that Gambhir who had earlier revealed that he would like to finish his IPL career with his home-based franchise Delhi Daredevils can actually head back towards his home turf. DD also have had a pretty ordinary outing in IPL 10 and also before, so this is a very good chance for them as well to get some solidity in terms of experience which the veteran Gambhir can provide to the struggling franchise.
Delhi have shown confidence in the young blood by retaining talented duo of Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer in their ranks. South African all-rounder Chris Morris is also kept in the loop by the Daredevils. The retention of lesser-known trio leaves DD with a big enough purse to seek some big names during the auction scheduled for January 27-28.