Bengaluru, Sep 19: The year 2008 was a watershed year for Indian cricket. From that moment, the game's nerve centre had realigned itself to India, who announced themselves as the game's superpower with the emergence of the cash-rich T20 Tournament - Indian Premiere League (IPL). The game would never be the same again.
In the eight years since the launch of IPL, cricket's popularity has grown, the hype has become louder and its reach wider. The format's widespread success can be partly put down to its ability to combine cricket with mainstream entertainment, in a fashion that has been hitherto unknown. (Mysuru team profile)
Following IPL's footsteps, Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) launched the Karnataka Premiere League (KPL) in 2009; a domestic T20 tournament, that gives players from mofussil areas a platform to prove their mettle at the highest level. (Bellary team profile)
Adding a splash of razzmatazz to the twenty-two yards in the KPL, are the Celebrity Rockstars team, led by Karnataka movie star Kiccha Sudeep.
Whatever makes cricket so popular in this country is the common man's passion for the sport, that attests itself readily to the lore of the game. Throw in the fact that you have a movie star leading a pack of eleven players to the cricket field, and you have a recipe for instant success.
A gorgeous cover-drive unfurled from the willow of an elegant actor, a diving catch by a nimble silver-screen star, and the theatrical expressions punctuating the air, as willow meets leather, make Rockstars one of the most widely followed teams in the KPL.
The Rockstars, co-owned by Raju Gowda and Kiccha Sudeep, were the seventh team to enter KPL in 2014. The 'All-Stars' team received a major boost last year, when former cricketers Venkatesh Prasad, Sunil Joshi and David Johnson joined their ranks, in the quest for the coveted KPL trophy. However, the inclusion of seasoned cricketers did not bring much luck to the side, as they finished with a wooden spoon in the fourth season.
But in a welcome move this year, the Rockstars were allowed to participate in 2016 KPL auctions, thus levelling the playing field to a certain extent.
The Rockstars team, part of the auction for the first time, signed Karnataka first-class cricketer SL Akshay for Rs 2 lakh from Pool A, before setting down to add Naveen B, Ritesh Bhatkal, and NC Aiyappa from Pool B.
Lending strength to the Rockstars' batting this year, will be Railways batsman Nitin Bhille. Bhille has played 25 first-class matches, where he scored 1153 runs at a modest average of 30.34, with six half-centuries and two hundreds against his name.
In yet another exciting purchase at the auction, the team signed wicket-keeper batsman Sharath BR, who was given the best batsman award for his stellar performances in the U-19 Vinoo Mankad Trophy and Cooch Behar Trophy in 2015-2016 season.
Sharath, a player of the Mount Joy Cricket Club, Bangalore, was the highest run-getter for his club in the season gone by. His consistency was rewarded earlier this year, when the Karnataka State Cricket Association selected him to be a part of Durham County Cricket Club's six-week development program.
The Rockstars would be hoping that Sharath summons his batting skills to change the team's fortunes this season.
The splendour of Sudeep's popularity and the 'star' value of his side will now be rightly complemented by the cricketing prowess of some young and exciting talents.
This potpourri of glamour and sport should hold the Rockstars in good stead in the days to come. With the stadiums packed to the rafters, and the crowd behind them, Rockstars would want to script a victory story in KPL 5.
Rahul R K
Owners - Raju Gowda and Kiccha Sudeep
Raghu - CEO
Mahendra Gouda -Team Manager
C Raghu - Coach
Ramakanth - Physio
Deepak N J - Franchise Representative
Brijesh Gowda - Franchise Representative
Rajesh Bellary - Franchise Representative
Manga Rao - Assistant Coach
All matches of the KPL 2016 will be telecast live on Sony ESPN and Sony ESPN HD Channels.