Don't slam Dinesh Karthik, praise him for his confidence

Don't slam Dinesh Karthik, praise him for his confidence

(By K Bala Kumar)

The long-drawn tour of Australia and New Zealand may have had a lot of positives for India, but the trip ended with a T20I series loss amidst a controversy over Dinesh Karthik’s enigmatic refusal to take a single in the last over.

Two days since the series ended, the media is still discussing whether Dinesh Karthik was right in not going for the single. Most opinions are not charitable to Karthik, especially since his partner Krunal Pandya was capable of hitting the big shots and he had shown his capability in the very same innings.

For those who have tuned in late, chasing New Zealand’s score of 214 at Hamilton last Sunday, India went into the final over needing 16 for victory with Karthik and Krunal at the crease- the two had batted adroitly from a position of little hope to one where India could think of pulling an improbable victory off.

The final over, however, unravelled badly for India, as Tim Southee used all his experience and technical nous to deny the Indian batsmen any width or depth to go for lofted shots. The first three balls yielded only two runs, effectively killing the match as a contest.

The third ball, which Karthik hit it to long on, but refused to take the single despite Pandya running almost to his end, is now the talking point. With Karthik unable to smash the fourth ball for a six, the match ended tamely, even though the final delivery was clobbered for an anti-climactic ‘maximum’.

Karthik has been criticised by former cricketers, and the general public has mercilessly trolled him on social media platforms. The popular refrain is that Karthik is no MS Dhoni, who is a kind of legend for finishing off matches in the last over. Of course, Dhoni has fluffed his lines, in a manner of speaking, in final overs more than a couple of times, but nobody remembers that.

With Pandya too in gritty form (he finished with 26 off 13 deliveries), Karthik’s reluctance may not seem well thought out. But despite Pandya’s capabilities, it was still not a cinch that he would have got the much-needed six off the fourth ball. We are basically dealing in hypothetical possibilities here.

On the other hand, Karthik, by not going for the single, was actually exhibiting better understanding cricket percentages and his own ability to take the leadership role in a crisis situation.

Karthik, in his innings, pulverized 33 off 16 balls. He has been in fine fettle all through the season — in the limited opportunities he has got, he has not failed the team.

Also, as a senior partner, and someone who had worked a great miracle in the Nidahas Trophy final against Bangladesh in Colombo last year (with five for a win off the last ball, he hit it for a six), Karthik had compelling grounds to back himself.

At any rate, a good leader is someone who accepts a challenge and goes for it. That is what Karthik did. Too bad it backfired on him and the team. By putting his reputation on the line, Karthik was taking a huge risk. Good players and leaders always back themselves in such situations. And that is what Karthik was doing.   

Taking chances is part of the deal in the final over of any limited over match. The outcome is important. But some leeway should always be given because the opponents are also no slouches.

Karthik deserves some sympathy. His dressing room, one thinks, will be more understanding than the general public banging on their keyboards on some outrage-fueled social media platform.  

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