Although the team has gained immense popularity due to its association with celebrity owners, it was surrounded with controversy and poor on-field performance through the first three years of the tournament. The team's performance, however, improved from the fourth season as it qualified for the IPL playoffs and made it to the Champions League Twenty20. They eventually became the IPL champions for the first time in 2012, by defeating Chennai Super Kings in the final and repeated the feat in 2014, defeating Kings XI Punjab. The Knight Riders hold the record for the longest winning streak by any Indian team in T20s (14).
The leading run-scorer of the side is Gautam Gambhir, while the leading wicket-taker is Sunil Narine. The official theme of the team is Korbo, Lorbo, Jeetbo Re (We will do, we will fight, we will win) and the official colors are purple and gold. The brand value of the Kolkata Knight Riders was estimated at $57.5 million in 2011, ranking third amongst all ten IPL teams.
The Kolkata Knight Riders made a good start the season by winning their first two matches against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Deccan Chargers. Kolkata Knight Riders' opening batsman Brendon McCullum scored 158 runs in the first match. However, the team began to experience failures and lost the next four matches. The team managed to stage a comeback of sorts by winning the next three matches, helped by strong performances by Sourav Ganguly and Shoaib Akhtar. But their performance dipped again and they lost the next three matches. These included their match against Mumbai Indians, in which they were bowled out for 67 runs, the lowest score by a team in the IPL 2008 season. When their match against Delhi Daredevils was washed out due to rain, they lost any chance of making it to the semi finals. The Knight Riders ended their season on a winning note by defeating Kings XI Punjab on their home ground.
The team faced various issues in its first season such as team composition, Ganguly's choice of batting first in the game against Chennai Super Kings, entertainment tax being imposed for matches played at Eden Gardens. Shahrukh Khan was barred by the International Cricket Council from entering the dressing room of the team when matches were in progress. He then issued a statement that he would be boycotting the remaining matches of the IPL until the code of conduct was clarified by the IPL authorities.
Financially, the Kolkata Knight Riders were easily the most successful franchise in the IPL, achieving a profit of ₹130 million (US$2.1 million) in the opening season itself.
The season is by far the worst in the history of the franchise. Kolkata Knight Riders finished at the bottom of the ranking table with three wins and ten losses including a string of nine successive defeats. KKR was among the least active franchises during the offseason, with no player trades. However, the team signed Mohnish Parmar during the offseason and also re-signed Ajantha Mendis to a long term deal.
On 18 April 2009 a blog by an anonymous author claiming to be a member of the team surfaced on the web. The blog was controversial from the start, giving unflattering nicknames to players, coaches, and owners of KKR and other teams, telling sordid stories, and showing most of them in a very negative light. The blog rapidly became popular and created a lot of media frenzy. The blog worsened an already bad season for KKR, which lost most of their games, had controversies surrounding their coach, John Buchanan, and frequently changed captains, including Sourav Ganguly and Brendon McCullum based on a series of theories discussing "multiple-captains". In August 2010, Bangalore based marketing specialist Anupam Mukerji revealed himself to be the person behind the blog. He said he had "never met a cricketer in his life", and was just making up stories. He never expected it to become this big, he remarked, adding that the Fake Player ended up getting legitimized by the media frenzy. He was inspired by the popularity of a similar blog by Fake Steve Jobs, and the Richard Gere movie The Hoax.
KKR also set up a Talent Resource Development Wing (TRDW) in 2009 to spot local talent nationwide. This was based on BCCI's 2002–06 model which had discovered talents like MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina. The wing was headed by Makarand Wainganker, who had first initiated the TRDW concept for the KSCA. However, Wainganker eventually resigned after persistent disagreements with John Buchanan over team selection and Buchanan's "multiple captains" theory. KKR were the first team in IPL to select their cheerleaders by a talent hunt show called Knights and Angels, judged by Sourav Ganguly and other guest stars and hosted by Bollywood actor Purab Kohli. However, the six girls who were part of the winning team did not get a chance to perform during the 2009 season since local authorities only allowed South African cheerleaders to be hired. Despite not performing, they were presented with the opportunity to accompany the team and watch the matches in South Africa in a nine days all-expense paid trip.
Despite the poor on field performance of the team and its struggle at the bottom of the points table, the Kolkata Knight Riders has been ranked as the richest team in the tournament with a brand value of $42.1 million. The study conducted by a UK-based international brand valuation consultancy took into account various revenue lines such as broadcasting, IPL sponsorship, team sponsorship, merchandising and gate receipts as well as the effect of performance, the catchment population of the city, the capacity of the stadium and the presence of iconic players.
The Kolkata Knight Riders traded Australian all-rounder Moises Henriques for Manoj Tiwary and Owais Shah. At the Player auctions they managed to successfully buy Shane Bond in the silent tie-breaker against competing bids from Deccan Chargers for $1.3 million. Ganguly was once again given the captaincy of KKR, after the team ended at the bottom in the second season. The coach John Buchanan was replaced by Dav Whatmore.
The Kolkata Knight Riders had a fantastic start to the season with two consecutive wins against Deccan Chargers and Royal Challengers Bangalore. That was followed by three defeats at the hands of Chennai Super Kings, Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians. The Knight Riders then made a come back by winning most of their homes games against Kings XI Punjab, Deccan Chargers and Delhi Daredevils. Despite being tied at 14-point with The Super Kings, Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore, a lesser NRR meant they eventually finished sixth on the point table.
In this edition of the IPL, the Kolkata Knight Riders decided to revamp the team, starting with a new look and by changing the entire set of players. the previous year's captain was dropped in the IPL auction held earlier that year. Gautam Gambhir, who was bought for a record-breaking $2.4 million was appointed as skipper. KKR also managed to buy Yusuf Pathan for $2.1 million. Other international names added to the squad inclued allrounders Shakib Al Hasan and Jacques Kallis, pace bowler Brett Lee and Ryan ten Doeschate of Netherlands. Brad Haddin was replaced by Mark Boucher in mid-season due to a finger injury he sustained during practice.
The Kolkata Knight Riders had a disappointing start of season, losing to Chennai Super Kings by 2 runs. But they came back stronger, winning their next three matches against Deccan Chargers and Rajasthan Royals at Kolkata and Jaipur respectively. After two consecutive defeats in their home ground, the team had a string of wins against Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab and Deccan Chargers. They went on to win two of the remaining four matches; one against Chennai Super Kings in Kolkata and the other against Pune Warriors India in Navi Mumbai which enabled them to qualify for the playoffs for the first time. In the eliminator they lost to Mumbai Indians owing to a last over by Lakshmipathy Balaji which conceded 21 runs, losing their chance to enter the finals for the first time.
In the 2011 auctions, Sourav Ganguly was not picked by KKR, nor by any other team in the league. This created a huge uproar in Kolkata. The angry fans created a protest group called No Dada No KKR. This was followed by a silent protest rally, signature campaigns throughout the country and abroad and stadium protests. But the uproar came to a halt and the fans' reactions gradually bettered as the team's performance improved and the Eden Gardens began to witness huge capacities. KKR finished the top amongst all teams after the completion of the mid season game-play.
KKR's top four finish meant they would now participate in the qualifying stage for the 2011 Champions League Twenty20, held from 19 to 21 September. Captain Gautam Gambhir wasn't able to lead the team during the qualifying stage, as he has been recovering from an injury he sustained during a Test match between India and England at The Oval. Jacques Kallis was the appointed captain in Gambhir's absence. However, Gambhir returned to lead the team in the Group stage. KKR was also without the services of Eoin Morgan, who was due to have a shoulder surgery, and Mark Boucher who was playing for Warriors.
The team was placed with Somerset, Southern Redbacks, Warriors and fellow IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore in Group B of the tournament. They lost their first two matches against Somerset Sabres and Southern Redbacks. They made an impressive comeback by winning the last two games, first by 9 wickets against Royal Challengers Bangalore and a rain affected 22 run victory by (D/L) against Warriors. However, despite being tied on points, they could not make the semi-final due to a lesser NRR+ than the Royal Challengers. They ended up fifth on the overall points table.
Due to the disbanding of Kochi Tuskers Kerala, each team played the remaining eight teams twice, once at home and once away. Therefore each team played 16 matches. KKR bought back Brendon McCullum for $900,000 and West Indies Sunil Narine for $700,000. They also bought South-African Marchant de Lange for $50,000. The team replaced coach Dav Whatmore by Trevor Bayliss. Kolkata Knight Riders also launched a new marketing campaign titled "New Dawn. New Knights" and a new logo.
The 2012 IPL was then the most successful season for the franchise. KKR got off to a poor start in the tournament, losing their first two games against Delhi Daredevils and Rajasthan Royals. However, they fought back with consecutive wins over Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals. In the next match, however, they messed up an easy chase against Kings XI Punjab, losing narrowly by 2 runs. KKR's West Indian spinner Sunil Narine took the only five-wicket haul of the tournament (5–19) in that match and despite his team losing, he was declared as the Man of The Match. KKR then went on to win six matches in a row (except for a washed-out match against Deccan Chargers). However, the team's performances dipped in the following two matches, losing against Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings. Eventually the team had a timely return to form, when they beat Mumbai Indians and Pune Warriors India in successive away matches, with the side bowling economically to defend average totals. This earned a second-place finish for the team at the end of the league stage and a semi-final match against Delhi Daredevils. An all-round performance from them saw Delhi being defeated by 18 runs, and KKR also qualifying for their maiden IPL final.
The final between the Knight Riders and the defending two-time champions Chennai Super Kings was held at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium. A hamstring injury to Lakshmipathy Balaji resulted in the inclusion of Brett Lee and due to him being a foreign player, the team was required to leave out their wicket-keeper batsman Brendon McCullum to maintain the cap of 4 foreign players. Manvinder Bisla was brought in to replace McCullum. The team eventually won the match with the help of some impressive batting performance by Bisla (89 from 48 balls) and Jacques Kallis (69 from 49 balls) to become the champions of the tournament for the first time. Manvinder Bisla was declared Man of the Match and Sunil Narine was named Man of the Series.
There were some eye-catching performers for KKR in IPL 5, particularly on the bowling front. Sunil Narine was the second-highest wicket-taker as well as player of the tournament, and also had the best economy rate in the tournament. The batting was led by skipper Gautam Gambhir, who was the second-highest run-getter of the tournament and scored 6 half-centuries out of a total of 11 from his team.
KKR's maiden IPL victory in 2012 meant that they would now participate in the 2012 Champions League Twenty20 which was held in South Africa. They were in Group A along with Delhi Daredevils, Perth Scorchers, Auckland Aces and Titans. But disappointingly, they were eliminated in the group stage itself, winning only one game against the Titans, which they did so with a record breaking 99 run margin. This was the highest victory margin ever recorded in the CLT20 tournament. Losses to Delhi Daredevils and Auckland Aces followed by a washed out game against Perth meant that KKR finished 3rd in Group A and failed to qualify for the knock out stages of the tournament.
KKR had a disappointing IPL season in 2013, as they failed to make the play-offs, losing ten and winning only six out of their sixteen matches. Although their performance was disappointing, a few players performed really well, like Sunil Narine who took 22 wickets in 16 matches and Gautam Gambhir who made some good runs. But due to lack of rhythm and perfect combination of players, and bad form of a few players, the KKR could not win few easy matches and ended up 7/9.
Knight Riders retained only their captain Gambhir and spinner Sunil Narine as they went into the 2014 IPL auctions. They bought back Jacques Kallis, Yusuf Pathan, Shakib Al Hasan, Manvinder Bisla and Ryan Ten Doeschate. New additions to the side were Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Morne Morkel, Umesh Yadav, Piyush Chawla, Vinay Kumar, Chris Lynn along with some other uncapped and foreign players. KKR had a good start to the seventh edition in UAE, defeating defending champions Mumbai Indians in the inaugural match. However, their performance dipped and they won only 1 out of their next 4 games played there, including a super over tie against Rajasthan Royals, which they ultimately lost on a boundary count. Their poor form continued as they lost two more matches after they were back in India, making it five losses in seven games. The team changed their batting order, promoting Robin Uthappa as an opener which worked very well as he became the highest run scorer in the tournament with 660 runs. He also scored 40+ runs in 10 consecutive matches. Sunil Narine continued his great run, being the second highest wicket taker. Knight Riders recovered from the losing streak, winning each of their next 7 games. In their last group game against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, Yusuf Pathan blitzed his way to a half century off just 15 balls, which is a record in the IPL. After the group stage, they were tied at 18 points with Chennai Super Kings but beat them to the second place in points table by a better net run rate.
They played the first Qualifier at their homeground Eden Gardens against Kings XI Punjab which they won by 28 runs and entered the final for the second time in their history. In the final at Bengaluru, they met Kings XI Punjab again and defeated them by 3 wickets in a thrilling match chasing a mammoth 200, with local boy Manish Pandey delivering his best knock of the season with a brilliant 94 in 50 balls, to win their second title in 3 years. The victory was celebrated grandly in a similar fashion to their 2012 Indian Premier League title win.
Initially, when Kolkata Knight Riders were first introduced in 2008, the logo of the team consisted of a blazing golden Viking helmet against a black background with the name of the team Kolkata Knight Riders written in gold next to it. However, the black background was changed to purple in the third season. In 2012, a new logo, which consist of a blazing purple Corinthian helmet trimmed with gold, with Kolkata Knight Rider written within a shield has been introduced. The name Knight Riders has been chosen keeping in view the kids and the youth.
The tag line of the team was "All the King's Men" during the first four season. However, in the fifth it was replaced by "New Dawn, New Knights". The team's official colours were black and gold during the first two seasons. Khan explained that "golden symbolizes spirit of life and black presents the Goddess Kali. " It was later changed to purple and gold during the third season and was kept so. The jersey was created by Bollywood fashion designer Manish Malhotra.
The main theme of the team Korbo, Lorbo, Jitbo Re (We will do it, Fight for it, Win it) has been created by Vishal-Shekhar duo. A Knight Rider album with several singers and music composers including Usha Uthup and Bappi Lahiri was also created. In 2009, A music video for one of the songs from the album, called "Too Hot, Too cool" directed by Farah Khan and featuring Khan and some of the members of the team was filmed in helipad area in Film City, Mumbai. The theme of the video centred around the African wild life as the IPL 2's venue had been shifted to South Africa at the time.
The home venue of the Knight Riders is the iconic Eden Gardens (with the two ends of the crease called the High Court End and the Pavilion End). Owned by the Cricket Association of Bengal, it is the largest cricket stadium in India and had a seating capacity of over 90,000. In 2011, the stadium was renovated to meet the standards set by the ICC for the 2011 Cricket World Cup; reducing its capacity to around 67,000. The renovated stadium includes a new clubhouse and players' facilities, upgrading the exterior wall, cladding the existing roof structure with a new metal skin, and general infrastructure improvements. In 2013, two of the team's home matches were hosted by the JSCA International Cricket Stadium in Ranchi.
In the 2012 auction, KKR bought back their former batsman, Brendon McCullum. They also acquired West Indian spinner Sunil Narine and South African fast bowler Marchant de Lange. The team later added four domestic players to their squad, including Debabrata Das and Iresh Saxena from Bengal, Saurashtra's Chirag Jani and Sanju Samson from Kerala.
In Nov 2012, KKR released four players from their team : Iresh Saxena, Chirag Jani, Sanju Samson and Jaydev Unadkat. In the 2013 auction, the team bought two overseas players, Sachithra Senanayake and Ryan McLaren.