Dinesh Karthik became a hero about a year back when he smashed Bangladesh’s Soumya Sarkar in the last over to win India the Nidahas T20 Tri-series also featuring hosts Sri Lanka in Colombo. By Karthik’s own admission after that, the team management was looking at him as a finisher and the Tamil Nadu player was doing the job for the team in quite a few close games.
But on Sunday, in the T20 ‘final’ against New Zealand, after doing the job for a bit along with all-rounder Krunal Pandya, Karthik lost his composure and refused a single off the third ball of the last over by Tim Southee, when India needed 14. Krunal, at the other end, was going great guns and it was inexplicable as to why Karthik refused that single.
After all, it was Krunal who had taken Southee apart in his earlier over that brought India back into the game.
Refusing singles towards the end to finish games on his own was made into a trend by MS Dhoni in his prime – the most notable being against Sri Lanka in a Tri-series final in West Indies in 2013 when he sealed it with a six in the last over. But in that game Dhoni was batting with No. 10 and 11 for a considerable period and the best chance for India to win was with the then captain on strike.
“Dhoni would never refuse singles if he was batting with somebody who could hit the ball hard. A finisher’s job is not to hit the winning shot, it’s about guiding the ship with his partners and Karthik’s decision on Sunday defied all logic. I would still have understood if Bhuvnehswar Kumar was at the other end, but with Krunal there, I don’t know what was going through Karthik’s mind,” former India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh told.
It must be said here though that Dhoni did refuse a single in the lone T20 International against England at Edgbaston in 2014 with Ambati Rayudu batting at the other end and the equation being nine off four balls. What can be said in Dhoni’s defence on that occasion though is that Rayudu had just walked into bat.
It’s true that a player has to deal with a lot of pressure when he has dragged the game to the last over. Karthik, for a considerable period of time playing for India and Kolkata Knight Riders, has shown a cool head under the cosh which has made the team management consider him as an option for the finisher’s role going into the World Cup. But Bhajji feels even if Karthik has to bat deep in most games, he shouldn’t take the finisher’s tag too seriously. “I am sure the team management will ask him today as to why he refused that single. These are split second decisions that can make or break a match and a player of Karthik’s experience is aware of that,” Harbhajan said.
Bhajji, in fact, referred to a match in the Asia Cup in 2010 when he hit Shoaib Akhtar for a six in the last over to take India to the final.
“I was batting with Praveen Kumar at that time and he was also connecting well. I would definitely have taken a single if there was an opportunity…And it’s not that I started thinking after that game that I had become a finisher just because I hit Shoaib for a six,” Harbhajan said, hoping that Karthik will not make such error of judgements going ahead.