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‘It just didn’t click, it wasn’t meant to be’: Bangar on Karthik’s downturn

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Dinesh Karthik got an almost ideal entry point as he walked in to bat at the start of the 15th over of RCB’s must-win game against Gujarat Titans. It had been an IPL 2023 to forget for the veteran but here was an opportunity to give the total some heft with only one over of spin to negotiate. As it turned out, Karthik gloved his first ball, an attempted bouncer down the legside from Yash Dayal to the ‘keeper and was dismissed for a duck – a record-setting 17th in IPL history. As it turned out, that proved to be his final act in the season, which he finished with a lowly tally of 140 runs at an average of 11.67.

It was a steep decline from the highs of the 2022 season when Karthik scored 330 runs at a strike-rate of 183.33 and forged his way into India’s T20 World Cup squad as the team’s designated finisher. This downturn, a failure to serve as the fourth-arm of the batting unit, was a contributing factor in RCB’s exit from the league phase of this tournament. Head coach Sanjay Bangar put it down to things just ‘not clicking’ for the 37-year-old.

“We tried to define the role for him. We made sure that he was walking in at the moments or in the phases where his strengths could have been maximised. And he had an outstanding season [last year]. So I don’t think that his efforts or his preparation or the role clarity that we gave was different last season. It’s just that it didn’t click this season,” Bangar said after the defeat on Sunday (May 21).

“More than anybody, if there’s one guy who would be disappointed the most, it’s Dinesh. Because he prides himself as a professional and wants to contribute to the team’s cause. So we could see it in him. Even till today’s game, we were hoping that he would come good. But that wasn’t meant to be. So we live and we learn and move ahead.”

RCB’s batting woes were exacerbated with neither Mahipal Lomror [135 runs at 16.55], Anuj Rawat [91 runs at 30.33] or Shahbaz Ahmed [42 runs at 10.50] able to pull their weight with the bat. It led to an over-reliance on the top-three of Faf du Plessis, Virat Kohli and Glenn Maxwell, who ended up scoring over 70% of the team’s runs in the season. The team invariably stuttered when they didn’t fire and consequently the absence of a strong finishing act had an effect in them having to temper their own batting.

“From a batting perspective, the top four contributed really well,” du Plessis said. “Maxi (Maxwell) was unbelievable. And then Virat and myself. But we were a little bit light on the middle order, to be honest. We missed a few runs from the middle order consistently throughout the season, especially in the back end of the innings, through a bit of power-hitting.

“Obviously, last year DK had an incredible season, probably one of the purple patches of his life and was finishing games left, right and centre. This season, it wasn’t to be and that’s the game of cricket. I thought there was a lot on his shoulders. I did feel that there could be someone with him to shoulder that responsibility.”

Bangar noted that it was tough in a T20 tournament to find form over the course of the tournament especially when batting time was limited, but admitted that the young Indian batters ought to have done better in the opportunities they got. “Last season, our top order wasn’t scoring that many runs. That meant the bulk of scoring was done by the lower order in Shahbaz and Dinesh, who had a fantastic season last year,” he said.

“But this season the top order was batting so well, the opportunity for the lower order was limited. DK had a season which is probably below his standard, if he had clicked in a couple of games that would have meant we would have added 15-20 runs more in the games that were the crunch ones and those runs could have been the difference in winning and losing a game. And you have to be patient with the young players, that’s something most teams agree to and you have to invest time. Mahipal had his share of innings but he should have been a little more consistent.

“We will go back to the drawing board and see what kind of continuity we want to give to the players, and we will assess the season once the dust settles,” he summed up.

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