Dubai: The decision to replace Dinesh Karthik by Eoin Morgan as captain of Kolkata Knight Riders makes perfect sense as the Indian Premier League enters the business-end, though one feels it could have been handled better.
Ever since the two-time champions KKR went for Morgan, the first-ever 50-over World Cup-winning captain for England, in the auction last December - it was apparent that he could be the management’s Plan B should Karthik fail to deliver. As things panned out in the IPL 2020, the team has done reasonably well to lie in the fourth place in the standings now, but the senior Indian wicketkeeper-batsman often failed to inspire enough confidence - either in firming up a consistent batting order or with his own form.
“Dinesh Karthik has informed the KKR management that with a view to focusing on his batting and contributing more to the team’s cause, he wished to hand over the captaincy to Eoin Morgan,” the team statement said. Fair enough as Karthik always looked a man under pressure, though one could never be sure if a number of their decisions like persisting with an out-of-form Sunil Narine in the opener’s role or the experimentation with the batting line-up was purely the captain’s call alone.
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Karthik, who has walked out to bat at a number of positions in the tournament so far including ahead of Morgan at No.4, has managed an aggregate of 108 runs in the seven games so far. It certainly fails to do justice to his career tally of 3654 runs, at a strike-rate of 129.80, and some tidy work behind the stumps - which had earned him hefty price tags with a number of franchises.
Interestingly, the practice of changing captains midway in the season is nothing new in IPL - with precedents of big names having to ‘step aside’ in the past. Last season itself, Rajasthan Royals had replaced Ajinkya Rahane with Steve Smith towards the last leg of the tournament and Rahane’s riposte came with a fine century.
This year, Sunrisers Hyderabad had substituted Kane Williamson with David Warner, the 2016 IPL-winning captain much before the season began. This showed a clarity of thought from the management as they placed their faith on the killer instincts of the Australian. In a similar vein, Morgan appeared more of a natural choice at the beginning of the season for a variety of reasons - from carrying the aura of a World Cup-winning skipper to a fearless batsman who was instrumental in shaping the revolution in England’s changed approach to white ball cricket.
It would have perhaps made more sense to announce Morgan as the captain ahead of the season, though he along with the other England and Australian cricketers, arrived in the UAE barely few days before the start of the tournament.
One cannot help but feel that all along the first half of the season, Karthik was kept on trial after his tribulations in the dressing room last year. May be, it will see the resurgence of Karthik the busy finisher as we know him!