Every once a while, an individual arrives at the crossroads; forced to pick up a decision that will hamper not only his life but the lives of the ones surrounding him as well. The tides that have brought him thus force will need to be re-evaluated; their presence countered and questioned. Should the feelings of loyalty run forth in making a practical long-term decision or should the world of emotions be segregated whilst accounting for the benefits in the future? It remains a choice that is cruel and tough at the same time.

A similar predicament awaits the Shah Rukh Khan-owned Indian Premier League franchise Kolkata Knight Riders as they assemble to discuss the way ahead with skipper Gautam Gambhir in tow. It has remained no secret- the team’s success rate in the last seven years have majorly hinged on the Delhiites’ ability to lead from the front; packing in aggression and passion in equal measures to astutely understand the nuances of the game.

Ask any KKR supporter and the support pouring in for Gambhir will leave you dazed. He set off on his Knight journey with hostility and rebellions running forth. Sourav Ganguly, the unheralded prince of Kolkata had just been banished from his own kingdom by the cold KKR owners after three years of below-par performances and Gambhir had been asked to lead the attack.

Hurting after being ditched by his former franchise Delhi Daredevils, the 36-year old pledged to answer with élan and even though the supporters seemed stubborn in not accepting his coronation, steady performances and two IPL trophies later, Gambhir self-confessedly became the city’s own.

Be it picking up unknown Sunil Narine for the IPL in 2012 or blindly supporting Indian discard Piyush Chawla or helping in the transformation of Umesh Yadav, the left-hander soon became a captain that stood out from the horde. He was the one who clearly understood the demands of having a match-winning bowling line-up in the T20 format. Whilst the other leaders kept their preferences for big-hitters well known, Gambhir’s faith in his spin attack, comprising Narine, Shakib-al Hasan, Chawla, Kuldeep Yadav and Brad Hogg made him stand out, often even unanimously making him earn the title of the best captain of the IPL.

Though his strike-rate often was unable to set the stage on fire, Gambhir symbolised a personality that went beyond the twenty two yards of the game. He felt the pulse at the hallowed Eden Gardens and struck an uncanny cord with the citizens. From witnessing empty seats in his early tenure as a skipper to being called a charismatic cricketer who firmly held the reins of his young inexperienced side; from being termed as someone who could never dream of replacing “Dada” to being someone whose possible absence in the unit brings with it waves of nostalgia, Gambhir has had a roller-coaster journey with the squad, one that faces a possible end when the teams announce their list of retained players for the eleventh edition of the IPL.

So should the player be retained? Should he be held close once more and carry on the deeds that he has been continuing? Or should the KKR management finally decide to let him go, knowing that by the time the new three-year deal ends, Gambhir will be all of forty years of age?

With Narine wavering in his form off late, the two expected retentions expected by KKR would be of Australian Chris Lynn and West Indian all-rounder Andre Russel, who will be making a comeback after having missed the league last season. However, with Kiwi batsman Colin Munro up in the IPL auctions, scheduled for later this month, KKR could possibly think of letting go of Lynn but whether they will use that purse to retain Gambhir remains the solemn question?

The opener will be forty by the time the current deal with the franchise is renewed again, so the question as to spend 12.5 crores on a player who might not even play till then is baffling to many. His strike-rate, which has never gone beyond 128 in the last five seasons, too is disturbing but then it is always about the leader that he has been. Calm, composed, involved.

The two Right-to-Match cards that allow a team to get back their previous players once he has been bid for by the other teams will in most probability be reserved either for Kuldeep Yadav or Manish Pandey, the two mainstays of the Indian T20 side, or Hasan, who has played an integral role in his side’s success over the years.

Keeping in mind the logistics, Gambhir might be sent back once again to the auction pool and from thereon it is no guarantee that he will be able to adorn the purple-and-gold jersey again. But as much as sports is about taking stern decisions, it is also about the waves of memories that glide forth and for every KKR supporter, their leader will forever stand for just that.