DK, Nayar and youngsters – rebuilding brand KKR!

Kolkata Knight Riders CEO Venky Mysore feels it is essential to maintain continuity, albeit with new faces, as players can change every three years.

Dinesh Karthik, the new KKR skipper, in full swing during an IPL game this season.   -  PTI

 

When Kolkata Knight Riders stacked its team with a bunch of young talents, a section of the cricketing fraternity was not too sure about the outcome. They feared that the brand value of the franchise could take a hit.

But two weeks into the Indian Premier League and all those speculations have gone up in smoke, with the Kolkata-based outfit making it count on the field.

KKR CEO, Venkatesh Mysore — popularly known as Venky —believes that ‘very rarely you have a situation where the value of a brand fluctuates with the composition of your team’. In a chat with Sportstar at the team hotel in Jaipur on Wednesday, Mysore opened up on a range of issues.

Excerpts…

There was a lot of criticism when KKR stacked its team with U-19 players and rookies. How do you assess the situation now?

It is important to understand that we just did not go for U-19 players or youngsters in particular to say, ‘oh, we want them because the average age of the team has to be young’. The idea was to focus on certain skill sets and you are also doing long-term planning. This was a big auction, so you are thinking of minimum three years. When we started looking for skills is when we started zeroing in on certain players. It so happened that they were from U-19 World Cup-winning team. Their enthusiasm is high, they are wide-eyed and are always willing to learn everything.

But then, with not many big names around, has it affected the brand value of the franchise?

When it comes to brand, it is a long-term thought process. We have never had superstars from 2011 onwards. We did have superstars before that. You don’t build a brand based on that. If that’s the case then the teams that haven’t won the championships should have their brand value hit rock bottom. Brand value is built on a host of things. How does your brand communicate with its fans, absorb you, follow you… Our focus is to say that it is a franchise and that’s something sustainable in the long term. In theory, all your players can change in every three years, and you want to get back as many possible. We have got eight back, still we have 11 new players. Next year, there could be some change. That should not have a bearing on this.

KKR CEO Venky Mysore at the player auctions in Bengaluru in January.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

 

For the last seven years, KKR projected Gautam Gambhir as its face. Now with him shifting franchises, how challenging has it been to establish Dinesh Karthik as the new face?

Fortunately, we have already done it once in the past. In 2011, we did not retain any players. We built a new team. So, we always have this approach of picking the best team possible and then choosing the captain. We did that in 2011 and we were fortunate that Gautam was a part of it. With any new team, we take on the responsibility to ensure how to achieve continuity along with change. The change automatically has to come because there are new players. We need to understand that the continuity is in which area? What is our culture? As a franchise, what does KKR stand for? How does one maintain the continuity? We have a similar type of challenge with the franchises we own. When we go to the Caribbean, or go to South Africa — how do you take the DNA of what we have done. There is a lot of continuity with the management, support staff — together we have created an ecosystem. People, who come in, quickly start being a part of it.

What do you mean by that?

I will give you an anecdote. I met Kamlesh Nagarkoti (who got injured) before he left. I told him that you are even younger than my son. Sitting next to him, I put my arms around him, and we were having a heart-to-heart conversation. I felt so close to him at that point, and he was saying, “Sir, bahot disappointed hoon. Aisa ho gaya…” I was telling him not to worry. He said, “Sir, KKR mein main itna enjoy kar raha hoon, isi liye sad hoon.” He said he never saw such a set-up. This just tells how we are as an organisation. We take pride in that. We don’t take anything for granted. New energy and new faces bring in new dynamics. If the results follow, it’s a win-win for us.

You just spoke about the South African League. Is there still a possibility of the tournament being hosted next year?

They have their challenges due to change in leadership. They found themselves little too far behind to be able to launch it. What they are trying to figure out is to come out with a model that’s appropriate with the market and also appropriate to meet their expectations as a board. We are in a wait and watch mode.

Coming back to IPL, you already have Jacques Kallis, Heath Streak and Simon Katich as coaches. So, what was the reason behind roping in Abhishek Nayar as a support staff? Was communication between the overseas coaches and the young Indian players a concern? Or was it Dinesh Karthik’s recommendation?

One thing that is so refreshing about Karthik is that he is particular about not wanting to portray anyone he knows or is perceived to be close to him. He makes this disclaimers before hand. I only asked him. There were a couple of other names as well. I think all the players speak fairly well. It's just that they are shy. All that will improve. That's why I pull Kuldeep's (Yadav) legs these days. In 2014, he was another kid from U-19 and would struggle with his English. Now, I tell him that now you not only speak excellent English, but you have also got your own accent. We now jokingly call it the ‘Kuldeep accent’. It was necessary to have a mental adjustment at this level. I just feel they are on the cusp of doing something special. Abhishek will do a great job of mentoring them. He is a very seasoned senior cricketer and has worked with some of the very senior guys.

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