By winning the IPL 5 cup, the Kolkata Knight Riders team feels “the monkey is off our back,” team co-owner Shah Rukh Khan told a press conference here on Wednesday.
“The boys were feeling the pressure of playing for a team owned by an actor. They have also had to deal with a lot of criticism because of me. We have been playing IPL for five years. There were many controversies. With this victory, I am happy that the youngsters and my kids now feel that the monkey off our back,” the actor told reporters at his residence in Mumbai.
He dedicated the cup to West Bengal.
Mr. Khan said the tournament saw many young players perform. “We saw a resurgent [Lakshmipathy] Balaji. Manoj Tiwari, who did not get a chance, is playing now. These boys joined us when they were 19 years old. They also have their own identity whether it was [Sarabjit] Ladda or [Jaydev] Unadkat. Now they feel they are part of a team. In India, we are only looking at winning and losing. But, in sports it's about how a team plays. Winning and losing is not important. We had a great team which has gelled together,” Mr. Khan said.
Asked if Gautam Gambhir should be the captain of the national team, Mr. Khan said it was for the selectors and experts to decide.
“We have played about 40 matches with Gambhir as the leader. He is disciplined and extra strict at times. He believed in taking players in their right form. He kept saying, ‘Let's back each other.' So, you don't get taken in by the fact that only one person has to play,” Mr. Khan said.
The team too had faith in their capability to win. “They said they would enter the qualifier round. So I guess somewhere they believed they would win.”
Describing his elated state on winning the tournament, he said, “I was standing at a balcony and I believed I could fly. That's how happy I was. I remember the loss to Punjab; I had locked myself in a room. I remember days when Dada did not eat for a day and Chris Gayle cried.”
The actor spoke of his dream of opening academies to nurture cricketing talent in India. “It is a dream to create academies to teach cricket to youngsters who dream of becoming professional payers. Now with the victory, sponsorship should come in. We would love to start an academy in Kolkata first. Talks are already on.”
No party has been organised in Mumbai as the players have returned to their hometowns. “There cannot be a celebration without the players. I am just the owner.”
The actor, who recently got into a scuffle, said he was ashamed of his act. Asked whether the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) mellowed down towards him, he said, “I did not like the fact that I misbehaved before my kids. There is no justification. I cannot subject my audience and my kids to my misbehaviour. I was ashamed that my kids had to reason with me.”
The actor also hit out at his critics for “analysing” his behavioural traits. “My anger was not against an association. It was merely towards an individual. There was a lot of pop psychology out there; analysts trying to analyse my behaviour and lots of it was just boring. I am sorry the audience had to suffer them,” he said.
Reacting to a remark that KKR revellers were unmindful of the fact that there were only five Bengalis in the team. “How dare anyone point out that there are only five Bengalis. It's about the whole team.”
Asked about the use of public money to celebrate the victory of a private team in Kolkata, he said, “When the whole country watches IPL, how private can it be? Why are we making in a public versus private issue? It was a function that broke all ideologies, good/bad, public/private, sport/Bollywood. Don't find cynicism in everything.”
As for the ruckus during the celebration, the actor said it was unfortunate. “When emotions run high, things get out of hand.”
The actor, who kept asking for updates on World chess champion Viswanathan Anand, during the press conference applauded on hearing about Mr. Anand's victory.
“He is the greatest champion the country's ever produced,” Mr. Khan remarked.
A huge crowd of fans had gathered outside the actor's bungalow to get a glimpse of him.