Dinesh Karthik will lead the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League 2018. It will be his first season with them, having been bought at the auction in February for INR 7.4 crores (approx USD 1.1 million). An old hand, Robin Uthappa, who was also among the top contenders for the job, has been appointed vice-captain.
Karthik, 32, has been part of the IPL since its inception in 2008, and he has played for five different teams - Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab, Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and most recently Gujarat Lions. He has also been stand-in captain for some of those teams, and has long been part of the leadership group with his home state Tamil Nadu.
"I think the thing that stood out is that DK is at the age now in his career where he's got the best years of his career in front of him," assistant coach Simon Katich told Star Sports. "He's been involved in the IPL for 10 years. He's got a fantastic domestic record captaining Tamil Nadu in the T20 tournament there. I think he's got a 72% win-rate which is outstanding as a T20 skipper."
Karthik takes over from Gautam Gambhir, who is the Knight Riders' leading run-scorer and took them to two IPL titles in 2012 and 2014. Venky Mysore, the CEO of the franchise, said they were keen to retain Gambhir for the 2018 season as well but the player had asked for a fresh start. It appears KKR are also chasing the same by putting a man who is yet to make his debut for them as their captain.
"The team that Gambhir led in the last seven years, I think he's done a fabulous job. "Karthik said. "He's left a sort of legacy which is the kind of thing I'd like to do, where you leave the team in good hands, and you take a team that was probably doing well and take it to a different level altogether. I would definitely like to be a part of that journey."
Knight Riders went all out to pick up the lynch pins of India's Under-19 World Cup winning squad - Shubman Gill (approx USD 281,000), Kamlesh Nagarkoti (approx USD 500,000) and Shivam Mavi (approx USD 468,000) - and Karthik was keen to see how they fare in the IPL. "It's a very young side. There are few very interesting talents from the India Under-19s that we've picked up. I'm really looking forward to meeting them, interacting with them and getting the best out of them."
Uthappa, the 32-year old who has played for the Knight Riders since 2014, might have missed out on the chance to lead them on account of limited captaincy experience. He has been at the helm of eight T20 matches, whereas Karthik's corresponding figure is 18.
"To come in at this role is really exciting for me," Uthappa said. "I've been able to add value to the team in the past in different scenarios in different forms. This gives me a more direct impact within the decision-making group so I hope to be adding the kind of value that bring us championships.
"I'm sure all of Kolkata will be right behind DK, as will I and as will the rest of the team. I'm going to be available to DK anytime he needs me, always ready to share my inputs. DK and I have known each other since our Under-17 days, so looking forward to working with him"
The 11th season of the IPL begins on April 7 in Mumbai.