CHENNAI: Lack of a settled opening partnership (Shubnam Gill has had three partners in seven innings). The mystery surrounding Kuldeep Yadav (he has not featured in four of seven matches). Pat Cummins’ somewhat off-colour beginning to his second innings at Kolkata Knight Riders after being recruited as the most expensive foreigner in the history of the tournament (he has picked up two wickets so far).
The ongoing debate on how Kolkata can extract the maximum from Andre Russell (he has faced 50 balls so far). Should they take Sunil Narine out of the firing line or play him at the risk of losing his bowling altogether (if he’s called again, he will be banned from bowling in this edition)?
Fair to say, those are lot of questions for a captain to sit down and go with the analysts and the leadership group.
Those were the kind of questions facing Dinesh Karthik when he made a call to the leadership group also consisting of Brendon McCullum (coach) and Eoin Morgan (England’s World Cup-winning captain) on Thursday night. Apart from finding solutions to all these problems, Karthik also had to find an answer to his batting problems.
His batting average of 15.42 is down by 11 runs on his lifetime IPL average. His main job with the bat is to provide the link between the accumulators in the top-order to the hitters in the middle-order. This year, however, that’s not worked out. His scores before Friday’s match — 30 (23), 0 (3), 1 (3), 6 (8), 12 (11), 58 (29) and 1 (2) — mean that the buffer between Nitish Rana and Morgan and Russell is absent.
It is why he had to make that call of handing over captaincy to the Irishman. Even if the two-time champs are in with a realistic chance of making the playoffs cut, Karthik knew his captaincy couldn’t come at the cost of his batting because of the specific role it plays in this side.
The decision to voluntarily step down again showed the kind of risk associated with being an IPL captain, the demands associated with it is relatively instant. Gautam Gambhir, Shane Watson, Daniel Vettori and Ricky Ponting had all stepped down during the tournament. The one strange thing about the ‘hand over’ of duties this time is that the team aren’t really struggling in terms of the league position.
But it’s telling that Karthik wanted to remember the good days as a captain after the last match against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
“Let’s be honest,” he said. “Every captain has a day when things don’t go right. But there are a lot of good days I can remember as well, and I will want to stick on to them.” It’s fair to say that the 35-year-old hasn’t been having many good days — both with his calls and with the bat — in the UAE.