Dinesh Karthik has received his fair share of criticism for his strategies as the captain of the Kolkata Knight Riders this season. Be it under-utilising the talents of young players like Shivam Mavi and Shubman Gill or making illogical bowling changes at critical stages of matches, he has done it all and has been criticised for his tactics that have contributed to the team’s losing cause on most occasions.
Despite those issues, it has been his improved batting prowess, especially while chasing, which has still kept the Knight Riders alive in the tournament and in contention for a playoff berth. Karthik has amassed 412 runs this season in 13 matches at an average of 51.50 and a strike rate of 152.02. These statistics reaffirm that this is his best IPL season as a batsman since 2008 in terms of both batting average and strike rate.
The last and only time he had breached the 400-run mark was back in 2013 when he scored 510 runs in 19 matches. But that came at a much lower average and strike rate of 28.33 and 124.08 respectively.
The Knight Riders have chased on eight occasions in this season and have won five matches out of them. And Karthik has played an instrumental role in all five of those victories. He has scored a total of 186 runs in those five matches at a mammoth average of 186.00 and a strike rate of 167.56 which are even better than his overall statistics this season. His scores in those matches read: 35* (off 29 balls), 42* (23), 23 (10), 45* (18) and 41* (31). Thee stats reiterate the balance and stability that he has provided to the Knight Riders’ middle order, batting mostly at No 5 or 6.
His numbers in successful run chases in IPL all these years read 707 runs in 36 innings at an average of 27.19 and a strike rate of 131.16. However, the 32-year-old’s statistics in successful run-chases have seen a massive boost this year which has been mainly due to his increase in confidence and temperament as a player and his newfound sense of timing and big-hitting prowess.
Moreover, the situational awareness that he has shown as a batsman in this season has been exemplary and that has been the main reason behind his success as a chaser this season. He has read situations very well whenever he has walked out to bat and has taken on the opposition bowlers head on. He has counter-attacked them on most occasions, but not with slogs and shots hit with brute force. Instead, he has done it with deft touches and sublime timing.
His pro-activeness at the crease right from the first delivery of his innings is one of the reasons behind his batting success this season and the way he has killed oppositions softly.
Batsmen who generally anchor or shepherd the innings to the end, bat at a much lower strike rate while holding one end up and thus allow the batsman at the other end to go out with all guns blazing. But Karthik’s rapid run-scoring ability along with the batsman at the other end has given his team an edge over opponents, thus destroying all their bowling tactics and strategies.
A prime example of this was seen in the way he batted against the Chennai Super Kings at the Eden Gardens while chasing a score of 178 runs. Kolkata were four down with the young Gill stranded at one end searching for partners. While Gill went about his business striking at more than 150 during the course of his innings of an unbeaten 58, Karthik walked out and bludgeoned his way to an unbeaten innings of 45 runs off just 18 deliveries, thus registering a strike rate of 250.00. The match which was expected to go down to the wire, got over with 2.2 overs still left in the Knight Riders’ innings — a fact which sums up the impact Karthik has had in chasing totals this season.
In unsuccessful chases this season, he averages much lower at 29.50 and has a strike rate of only 125.53. So that sums up how critical Karthik’s performance with the bat has been in getting the Knight Riders over the line this season.
Kolkata now have one match remaining in the league stage of IPL 2018 and they need to win it in order to ensure a playoff berth. Karthik has opted to chase on most occasions after winning the toss which sums up the confidence he has in their chasing abilities. If they chase once again in their next match, Knight Riders will surely fancy their chances with their skipper showing such chasing abilities. Even if they don’t, they have to bring their A-game to the plate in order to storm into the playoffs.