FOCUSING ON THE JOB
“We were the last recognised batsmen and we took it till the end and that required a lot of courage” – Karthik © AFP
Dinesh Karthik, in the last one year, has shown the wherewithal and level-headedness needed to excel in the role of a finisher in limited overs cricket. Be it for India or for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the IPL, Karthik has come up with contributions at crucial junctures to help the team’s cause.
If the recently-concluded trips to Australia and New Zealand saw many hits from Karthik’s willow, the ‘miss’ arrived in the final T20I at Hamilton. Karthik’s refusal to take a single with Krunal Pandya at the non-striker’s end in the last over of the contest – which India lost by 4 runs – was criticised by fans and ex-players. Some labelled him overconfident while many questioned his finishing skills.
On his part, Karthik felt he and Krunal did the best they could in a situation where 68 runs were required off the final 28 balls. “To get 68 from 28 was always going to be a daunting task. The fact that we lost the match by 4 runs shows that we believed in ourselves. We were the last recognised batsmen and we took it till the end and that required a lot of courage,” Karthik told TOI.
Karthik cleared the air for those who questioned whether he didn’t trust Krunal’s batting skills and hence, chose not to take the single in the final over. “Krunal batted brilliantly in that game and it is credit to him that we could take the team right till the very end of the game. It’s just that I couldn’t finish things off,” Karthik conceded.
The 33-year-old went on to praise Tim Southee for having kept the pressure up in the decisive last over. “You have to give credit to the way Southee bowled that over. He bowled some very good yorkers and we couldn’t get under the ball,” said Karthik.
Did the heavy criticism on social media bother him? “In a sport like cricket – which is widely watched in India – there are going to be a lot of opinions and that’s totally fair. It is important to filter those and be focused on what your preparations are and what you are good at.”
He may have faltered at the final hurdle in Hamilton, but Karthik will still be looked upon to perform the finisher’s role by the team think-tank. “It is something I have consistently worked on. The ability to finish games, assess what’s required in the middle and then be able to help the team cross the finish line excites me. I am very flexible in my batting and wherever the team demands me to bat – No. 4, 5 or 6 – I am willing to do that,” he noted.
Karthik feels it’s important to be “ready mentally and physically” if a player has to deal with those tricky chases. “Each time you are chasing big totals, you need certain things to go your way and you need to keep believing in those processes. Also, self-belief is a key area and you must back yourself to deliver each time you are given a task. It is all about making those little calculations and ensuring you are always ahead of your opposition,” Karthik mentioned.
Karthik was well aware of the challenges that he was supposed to face in Australia and New Zealand and prepared accordingly. “The wickets there aid the pacers, so it was important to base my practice keeping that in mind. During nets, it was important for me to not only try those last-minute adjustments against bowlers who would bowl 140-plus, but also be mentally prepare before any game.”
Apart from Karthik’s run against Australia and New Zealand, the series also saw his state-mate Vijay Shankar prove his mettle. “He has been terrific. Whatever chances came his way, Vijay Shankar has grabbed them all. His strength is his batting and whenever given a chance, he has shown his skills. What’s heartening to see is the way he has improved from where he was a year ago. Credit to him as he is working hard as a cricketer and putting his name on the international charts.”