Home Cricket IPL 2018: KKR skipper Dinesh Karthik deserves the plaudits

IPL 2018: KKR skipper Dinesh Karthik deserves the plaudits

Dinesh Karthik
Dinesh Karthik (Image: Hindustan Times)

The eastern giants handed the reins of the captaincy to Dinesh Karthik and gave him the requisite freedom to express himself and guide youngsters. KKR skipper Dinesh Karthik deserves the plaudits to lead the side in the way he has.
Ten matches into the Indian Premier League 2018 season for Kolkata Knight Riders and the confidence of Karthik has stayed intact as much as the side would have also liked in seeing young guns coming to the fore.
After being bought for Rs 7.4 crore, the main idea for the think tank was to cash in on Dinesh Karthik’s much found new swagger.  The senior player, who hit that famous last-ball six to win the Nidahas Trophy for India in March, seems to have rediscovered himself.
He may soon be approaching 33 years of age, but Dinesh Karthik is at the peak of his form.
KKR stand fourth in the IPL table and are pushing for a place in the playoffs. For a player, who is marking his first full-time appearance as skipper for a side, a top-four finish would itself be an achievement. KKR found new domains under former skipper Gautam Gambhir in the seven years he led the side, and following in his footsteps for DK would be a sweet response.
KKR hasn’t been perfect, neither they have set the tourney alive, but they have stood tall after being underestimated.

What’s been KKR’s response to expectations?

Once when the auction was held, KKR was trolled by fans and questioned by pundits for going into the market with no bench strength and lack of quality. Expectations arose that the side would not be a contender for the playoffs and could finish near the bottom-half. Weeks passed and the two-time champions were dealt with a severe blow when Mitchell Starc was ruled out with an injury.
But now under the stewardship of DK and their form of core players, they are blowing off those expectations. Their response has been strong to what was said and the performances at times have been notable. Five wins out of ten, KKR needs a few wins more to get past the line.
Yes, the team has the thinnest squad, but that, in turn, has been a blessing compared to teams with larger pools. But they need to arrest the slide of inconsistency in the batting which was highlighted against MI at the Wankhede.

DK has been in a rich vein of form

When it has come to his batting, the wicket-keeper batsman has been in the thick of the action. 316 runs from ten games at a strike-rate of 147.66, DK has led the KKR batting from the front. With the likes of Robin Uthappa and Chris Lynn coming good once in a while, DK has taken the mantle and has been chipping in with valuable runs in almost every match.
For a player that has performed consistently in the few chances in Indian colors off late in the limited overs format, getting his bat to do the talking is much needed for the Knight Riders. It brings familiarities with Gautam Gambhir, who scored consistently. The positioning and factors are different though as DK comes down the order, but like MS Dhoni, he too has churned in performances as a finisher.
He has chipped in every game, but the dual innings against RCB this season were both stand out performances. The 45* against CSK in the previous games topped the icing on the cake. In pressure situations, one needs a calm head and DK has provided that stability to KKR. Against MI at Wankhede, he ran out of partners in the end, but credit to him to take the side close.

Throwing the youngsters into the deep end

The likes of Shubhman Gill and Shivam Mavi especially has been the strength of KKR once they were given regular game time. Gill has gone on to feature in eight matches and has scored 129 runs that included a match -winning knock against Chennai at home. The talented batsman was first given a run lower down the middle-order, but against CSK he rose up before being sent to open against MI.
That was a brave decision by Karthik in sending Gill alongside Lynn. Although he did not score many runs, it gives KKR options to plan according to the opposition. Facing quality bowlers upfront will do Gill world of good and prepare him stronger.
Mavi on the other hand has been allowed to express himself and DK has experimented well with his bowling. Despite being plundered for 29 runs against Delhi in the final over, DK showed confidence on the young lad to bowl at death again in later outings before Shivam Mavi got injured. He has used the teenager well as per the situations and bowling at the death will only help him gain more confidence and handle pressure.
Against MI, he handed the final over to debutant Prasidh Krishna despite having the likes of Andre Russell and Mitchell Johnson in his kitty. And boy, Prasidh playing his first game did not disappoint giving away just 11 runs. This in turn has been DK’s strength as a skipper in trying out new things all the time.

DK learning the realms of captaincy

With every match, Dinesh Karthik is learning the trades quickly. Against CSK at Eden Gardens, he took a big risk bowling the last three overs of the innings against MS Dhoni in the middle with three of his spinners. It seemed to have worked well. A factor that the captain could use in the matches to come next.
When you look at the matches against CSK in Chennai and DD at the Kotla, he took chances and his choices were amassed for aplenty. His decision at at the death was questioned as KKR lost. Since then he worked upon that and changes followed. What strikes well for DK and KKR is that the skipper believing in youngsters and both Mavi and Gill have taken centerstage.

Chances for a top four finish?

KKR need at least three more victories to assure qualification and that should start against MI at home on Wednesday. DK has a settled side now and has done very little tinkering. Russell, Uthappa and Lynn have to step up their game a notch higher and as seniors lead by an example. If these factors come to a solution, one should expect the Knights to make it to the play-offs, quite easily.



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