Kolkata Knight Riders’ Dinesh Karthik stated that he wishes to do better than he did in IPL 2020, but insisted that he and his side have a solitary goal, which is to qualify for the knockouts. Karthik further expects KKR’s ‘experienced youngsters’ to take their game up a notch this season.
After enjoying a golden run between 2012 and 2018, where they won the title twice and reached the playoffs three other times, the last two editions of the Indian Premier League have been disappointing for Kolkata Knight Riders, who have not reached the knockouts since IPL 2018. Each of the last two editions of the IPL has seen the club miss out on final-four qualification due to Net Run Rate and the franchise has, remarkably, failed to string together consistent displays despite boasting of some of the biggest T20 names in the world.
One of the reasons for the franchise’s failed venture in IPL 2020 was Dinesh Karthik, who in 14 outings managed just 169 runs at a deplorable average of 14.08. Speaking to Sportstar, the Tamil Nadu skipper admitted that he would undoubtedly love to fare much better with the bat than he did last season, but insisted that he and his teammates share a common goal, which is to take the Knight Riders to the playoffs.
“Well, in terms of milestones, personally I am not a big goal-setter. For me, the priority is to have a good IPL for KKR and do a lot better than last year. But I like to focus a lot on the process and the practice and what are the things that I would look forward to executing during the tournament. When it comes to that, I think what is important for me is the team goal - which is to definitely try and qualify for the knockout stage. That will be the primary and most important target for me and the team,” Karthik told Sportstar.
“For me, it will be about spending a little more time at the crease. It is important that I get through the first five-eight balls and then get into aggression mode, that’s something I am definitely looking forward to.”
Karthik started the 2020 edition as skipper, but gave up captaincy mid-way through the tournament to Eoin Morgan, insisting that he felt that the burden of captaincy was affecting his batting. Now the team’s vice-captain, Karthik claimed that there will be far less responsibility on his shoulders heading into the new season, but added that he will not shy away from helping Morgan out if and when it’s required.
“I enjoyed my captaincy in the stint I had. When I thought that it was probably affecting my batting, I gave it up knowing that it is very important for me to contribute as a batter. Going into the season, the responsibility is far lesser than it used to be, but having said that I have the role of a vice-captain and I know that I have to be there for the team and make sure that I get the runs and also at times, help out Morgan with a few things if required.”
Many players, such as Karthik himself, played IPL 2020 without much match-practice and this reflected on their on-field showings, with rust making frequent appearances during the season. With every country in the world having restarted both international and domestic cricket in full flow, however, the KKR vice-captain is of the opinion that teams and players would be better prepared and equipped for the challenges this time around.
“A majority of players, who will be featuring in this IPL have played some form of cricket somewhere. Some have played domestic, some have played international cricket, so different players have done different things. This isn’t like the last IPL - where you came out of the lockdown, got into practice and then played the tournament. It is a lot different than what it was. We have played quite a few tournaments, so obviously the teams will be a lot well prepared.”
At 35, Karthik is not getting any younger, due to which his KKR future remains uncertain, but there are a host of other youngsters - such as Gill, Prasidh and Nagarkoti - who seem destined to carry the franchise in the next decade. Though in their early 20s, these youngsters already have at least a couple of IPL seasons under their belt and this, Karthik believes, will embolden them to fare much better in the forthcoming season.
“These youngsters that you speak about have a couple of years’ experience. They know what to expect in the IPL, so they have the experience in their kitty and that is going to help them in the tournament this season. The youngsters were completely new to the game three years ago, but after three seasons, they are far more prepared and know what to expect in the IPL.”
KKR will kick-start their IPL 2021 campaign versus the Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday, April 11, at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.