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Indian Premier League

Dinesh Karthik clears air on Andre Russell’s criticism of KKR during IPL 2019

by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

Dinesh Karthik, the Kolkata Knight Riders captain, has opened up on teammate Andre Russell‘s criticism of the franchise’s performance during IPL 2019, admitting that the situation could have turned into something “nasty” if there was no clear dialogue.

Russell, the star KKR all-rounder, criticised the franchise at a post-match conference for taking “bad decisions” after a string of losses, claiming that the atmosphere in the dressing room wasn’t healthy. Days later, Karthik, at a press conference, said that a lot of “bickering” and “back-fighting” can take place in the high-octane tournament, and assured everyone that, as a captain, he wasn’t letting it happen.

Looking back at the incident on The RK Show, Karthik said that Russell’s honest comments were taken constructively, and the West Indian all-rounder was himself apologetic for the way things panned out.

“To be fair, he’s one of those guys who wears his heart on his sleeve,” Karthik said. “I am sure he meant whatever he could have said. When I say West Indian, they are kind of in-your-face people. Whatever they say, they say it honestly and it’s on your face, it’s up to you, how you take it. If you want to take it offensively, the mistake is on your part.”

“If you want to take it constructively, which is how I looked at it … we had a conversation over it. Man to man, we discussed it out. He wasn’t not happy with me, he wasn’t happy that the team wasn’t winning, that is the bottom line.

“And then I had to tell him what I said. Sometimes, things could go wrong. Whatever he said, I completely respected it. He also realised it, because he got a taste of the Indian media then as well. Easily, what can be said, and what comes out, can be two different things because the tone of what you say, to what comes out can be very different in print.

“He realised and he was a little apologetic as well. At the end of the day, I have a great relationship with him. That makes the difference. If I didn’t have a great relationship with him, it could have spiralled into something nasty.”

Gautam Gambhir, Karthik’s predecessor at KKR, had expressed in a column that, had he been in Karthik’s place, he would have been extremely disappointed by Russell’s comments on the team atmosphere and morale. Karthik, however, maintained that, as a captain, it was his duty to acknowledge differing opinion in the camp, but also put his foot down and make hard conversations.

“Because I have an honest relationship, I can go up to him and say, ‘Russ, I don’t think what you said is right, because the way it has come out is not great. What do you want to do?’ And he said, ‘No, skip. This is how I felt about it, not how it’s come out. What he said [and] what people are reading are two different things.

“But then, he had an issue. He said, ‘We can do this better, I don’t think you’re doing this. Can we do it this way?’ And I had to explain saying, ‘Being a leader, I can’t completely please you, we’ll change things around, but not exactly you want. We’ll meet somewhere halfway. And the conversation was done. As a leader, I think having different opinions and dealing with it is one of the most important things. You need to be able to stand up and have a conversation, sometimes a hard conversation.”

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