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On this day 2018: Dinesh Karthik orchestrates India’s great escape

Karthik
by Akshay Gopalakrishnan 5 minute read

With a six off the last ball in Colombo, Dinesh Karthik orchestrated a heist for the ages to claim the Nidahas Trophy for India.

Post-2015 World Cup Bangladesh have often given India a run for their money. And while that has resulted in some memorable wins, like Bangladesh’s 2-1 ODI series triumph shortly after that World Cup, India have snatched victory out of nowhere on more than one occasion, most notably during that 2016 World T20 game in Bengaluru and the Nidahas Trophy final two years later.

On both occasions, India’s wicketkeeper had a major role to play. While in 2016, MS Dhoni ingeniously removed his right glove to give himself the best shot of hitting the stumps, in 2018, Dinesh Karthik launched an unsparing assault with the bat, having begun from a barely winnable position.

Karthik came out with two overs left in the game. India had just lost their fifth batsman, and the required rate was 17. Karthik was among the last recognised batsmen.

Dinesh Karthik celebrates after hauling India to victory

None of that made for strong odds for the batting team. But not only did Karthik lift his team’s spirits, he laughed in the face of the opposition for thinking they could actually kill it. Across nine balls, he batted like a video game character, impervious to pressure.

Now, Karthik has never been the kind to fist-pump and yell like a man possessed, a la Virat Kohli at his aggressive best/worst. That’s not to say he is a paragon of a calm and collected player: on his worst day, Karthik can be so twitchy that he can make Steve Smith look like a monk in penance. But in that final, he dealt with it all with such coolness that you could be forgiven for mistaking him for the man he replaced, the original Captain Cool.

Karthik’s cause was helped in no small measure by Rubel Hossain’s generous spread of half-volleys and full tosses. Ball after ball, the Bangladesh fast bowler missed his length, and ball after ball, Karthik ripped him to shreds. After a sequence of six-four-six to begin the 19th over, Karthik punched another four off the last ball to peel off 22 runs from the target.

Soumya Sarkar then reversed the pressure with a very tight final over, featuring two runs off the first three balls and a wicket off the fifth. It left India requiring five off one ball. Everything Karthik had done until then would be moot if he couldn’t finish it off, like he started: with a six.

Karthik was at his best at the recent Nidahas Trophy final

Dinesh Karthik was at his brutal best in the Nidahas Trophy final

Walking into this kind of a situation already carries a low probability of success; to do it again and again on the same day would be superhuman. It takes a lot to make it happen: a steady head – on the inside and outside – fast hands, firm feet, discerning eyes, and above all, nerves of steel. It’s what makes us revere our sporting heroes: these are gifts elusive to the more mortal among us. And when it comes off, it makes for one of the most riveting live spectacles.

Karthik ticked all those boxes in the most glorious eight balls of T20 batting.

Sarkar steamed in one final time. Karthik was ready, eyes like a hawk, waiting to pounce on anything off target. The error presented itself in the form of a half-volley. With Karthik in this sort of mood, there was no way that wasn’t going to be converted.

He gleefully accepted it and swung for the fences. It seemed for a moment as though this might be a four. But India’s keeper had hardly put a foot wrong on the day, and he wasn’t about to now. Flat as it may have been, the ball sailed all the way over the extra cover boundary for six.

India rushed out to embrace their hero. Bangladesh crumbled in a heap. For the first time in years, Dinesh Karthik was the talk of the town, and deservedly so, for having orchestrated a heist for the ages.

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