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Monday, February 11, 2019

nail-baiter at Hamilton .. .. is DK to be blamed for that refusal !!

Indian tour down under to Australia and New Zealand is over – Men in Blue and their supporters are feeling confident and happy after the good show.  Rishabh Pant, Vijay Shankar and Ajinkya Rahane are all in contention for a World Cup berth, according to India's chairman of selectors MSK Prasad.  If Pant is a "healthy headache", Vijay, who is seen as a batting allrounder, has brought in a new "dimension" to the World Cup selection with his impressive performances in the New Zealand series this month, Prasad said. Pant might have only played three ODIs - all against West Indies in 2018 - but his good form in Test cricket and for India A in the last year has received a positive appraisal from the selectors.  Along with Dinesh Karthik, Pant was earlier seen as the back-up wicketkeeper for MS Dhoni; I somehow is not in favour of 3 wicket keepers – two playing as a pure batsman, with so many youngsters, knocking the doors – perhaps the bench-strength is not that poor !

India lost a close match – the scoreline of T20  reads 1-2. Match score reads : New Zealand 212 for 4 (Munro 72, Seifert 43, Kuldeep 2-26) beat India 208 for 6 (Vijay 43, Rohit 38, Mitchell 2-27) by four runs  !!

First a great match – boiling to last over .. .. target of 213 in T20 is never easy – but it was a small ground where mishits could sail over the ropes.  Shikhar Dhawan & MS Dhoni failed.  Rohit sharma made 38 off 32 balls (would one call that sluggish ! – 118 % SR); Vijayshankar grabbed the opportunity made 43 off 28 (153.57 SR); Rishab Pant shone for a while 28 off mere 12 (3 sixers 233.33 SR); Hardik Pandya  nice cameo 21 off 11 (190.90 SR); Dinesh Karthik – lusty blows, 4 sixers 33 off 16 (SR 206); Krunal Pandya (2 sixers 2 fours) 26 off 13 (200 SR) – Team India lost by 4 runs. 

Tim Southee held his nerve in the last over defending 16 – there were couple of very good overs around 14,15, 16 by Kiwis that dented India’s chances.  48 off 3 is never an easy target against any international attack .. .. yet the 18th over bowled by experienced Tim Southee, who started with a wide, next belted for a 6; next a thin edge for 4 – Krunal was becoming a hero; another 4 flattbatter over cover, single, single, single -  (18) brings to 30 off 2 overs .. .. penultimate over, Karthik whacks  a pull over square leg for a 6; last ball, Mrubal stunned a length ball over long on for another 6 – 14 run over – bringing the equation to 16 off the last 6 ! – hopes had been raised ..

1st ball good fielding by Santner in the deep restricted to 2; next was not given a wide as Karthik had moved already; then came the 3rd ball – Karthik mistimes lofted hit to long-on, goes straight to fielder, Krunal Pandya is running mad, but, butt, DK refuses a single, wanting to retain the strike.  – it is 14 from 3 (could have become 13/3). Perhaps that decision be not taken – next a single in frustration;  last ball lifted over cover for a 6 by DK – but match already over with many ranting on that single run refusal. 

New Zealand deserves full credit .. .. Colin Munro's blazing half-century and Tim Southee's last over to defend 15 runs helped New Zealand seal the T20I series 2-1 with a four-run victory in the decider at Seddon Park. The defeat also meant India faced their first series loss on their long tour of Southern Hemisphere.

                     After being put in, Munro's 40-ball 72 and Tim Seifert's 43 off 25 set the platform for a daunting total. While India dismissed Munro and Kane Williamson in back-to-back overs, New Zealand had by then motored to 150 in 14.4 overs. Colin de Grandhomme ensured the hosts didn't lose the momentum with a stroke-filled 16-ball 30, with Mitchell and Ross Taylor applying the finishing touches.  

Chasing a huge total, India lost Shikhar Dhawan in the first over itself, but Rohit Sharma and Vijay Shankar put the chase on track by adding 75 off 46 balls for the second wicket. Vijay played some sublime shots, including successive sixes off Ish Sodhi, before falling for a 28-ball 43. Rishabh Pant kept the hopes alive for a while, but in the space of 19 balls, India slipped from 121 for 2 to 145 for 6. Karthik and Krunal took India closer but couldn't take them to victory.

Seifert was ruled out stumped by Chris Brown, the third umpire, in yet another questionable decision in this series. Kuldeep Yadav drew the batsman forward and beat the outside edge with a tossed up googly. MS Dhoni whipped the bails off in a flash  and replays showed Seifert might have had some part of his back foot behind the line before the bails came off. However, the third umpire thought differently and didn't take much time to rule the batsman out.  In one Hardik Pandya over, Khaleel dropped a simple catch reprieving Munro, Vijay fumbled to concede a boundary, there was an edge and everything was chaotic.

Dinesh Karthik in one of the games struggled at Lanka – then an year later became a hero smashing Bangladesh’s Soumya Sarkar for a huge last ball six.  Then everyone started speaking of him as a finisher, some comparing or describing him to be a better man than MSD for the job.   Perhaps that was in his mind, as he tried emulating Dhoni – in a fit, losing composure, he refused a single off the third ball of the last over by Tim Southee, when India needed 14.  Dhoni had shown this way – but that was when tail was around and when requirement was a six, which MSD could do with a sailing hit over long on invariably .. ..   Krunal, at the other end, was going great guns and it was inexplicable as to why Karthik refused that single.

Dhoni though relishes in taking match to the final over, would not refuse singles, and generally finishes – but one should concede that the media / critics have been harsh on him too, when he failed in one odd match in the end.  TOI today has a box article stating that Harbhajan Singh criticized this .. .. in the end on the ground, players have to deal with lot of pressure and it is never easy. Recall that infamous comment ‘kapil in need of maths tuition’ – when Chetan Sharma bowled the last over, ended up bowling full toss which Javed Miandad hit for a 6 over mid wicket, which rankles still in the mind of every cricket lover.  There too, it was wrong criticism as Kapil had bowled a great 49th over and, if the same penultimate over had been bowled by Chetan Sharma / Madan lal, nothing much would have been left to the end over.

In the end, it is all about what we want to see – and that way, perhaps, though DK’s decision was not a great one, may not be called the match-turner. Bhajji took the change to take a dig stating that  Karthik  shouldn’t take the finisher’s tag too seriously. “I am sure the team management will ask him today as to why he refused that single. These are split second decisions that can make or break a match and a player of Karthik’s experience is aware of that,” Harbhajan said. Bhaji, referred to a match in the Asia Cup in 2010 when he hit Shoaib Akhtar for a six in the last over to take India to the final. “I was batting with Praveen Kumar at that time and he was also connecting well. I would definitely have taken a single if there was an opportunity...And it’s not that I started thinking after that game that I had become a finisher just because I hit Shoaib for a six,” Harbhajan said, hoping that Karthik will not make such error of judgements going ahead.

Unlike Common law judgments, it is unlikely that a similar situation presents itself before the player again, and even if it does, the earlier situation, the action and the end-result, may not readily come to mind, to anyone on the field, in the thick of happening.  Without debating much or blaming one – just leave it that – a well-fought match, result may not be to one’s liking !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
11th Feb 2019.

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