Dinesh Karthik to captain Kolkata Knight Riders in 2018 IPL
Kolkata Knight Riders’ leadership has been one of the most steadiest in the IPL, with Gautham Gambhir having led the side every year from 2011 to 2017. This period included IPL titles in 2012 and 2014, but after the Knight Riders opted not to retain their long-time skipper in this year’s auction, a new captain was needed. That man, it was announced on Sunday, will be Dinesh Karthik.
The decision will no doubt warm the hearts of Indian fans who have seen Karthik continually on the verge of the International Test side, but never able to truly break through and become a valued member of it.
Initially entering the International circuit as a wicket-keeper batsman in late 2004, he was soon pushed aside as Mahendra Singh Dhoni stole his mantle a year later. Not a bad player to lose your spot to, and since then Dhoni has obviously become a great of Indian cricket, meaning Karthik has had no real chance to get back into the side as a wicket-keeper batsman.
He has, however, continued to score runs at a domestic level, meaning he is always on or around the radar for Test selectors. His best period as an International player came in 2007, starting with his maiden Test century against Bangladesh. This innings of 129 was the start of a run of form, and after touring Bangladesh, India headed to England, where Karthik would play the best cricket of his career. In the three Tests he scored a 60, a 77 and a 91, helping India to a 1-0 series victory.
This brief period was the only time in his career where his spot was in some way cemented. After the England tour, he suffered a form slump and was subsequently dropped. In the ensuing five years, he was often in or around the minds of selectors, with his ability to continue scoring runs at the first class level (where he averages 42.07 over 157 matches) making him consistently one of the better domestic players in the country.
His International career may be finished now, stuck on 23 Tests (in which he averages 27.77 and has scored exactly 1,000 runs) and 79 ODI’s (in which he averages 29.92), but his career will take on newfound significance with his appointment as captain of KKR. Karthik has been a regular contributor to the IPL, playing for the Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab, the Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore, the Gujarat Lions, and now the Knight Riders over the ten years of IPL action.
Despite all of his contributions to the IPL, this may be his biggest season yet. The Knight Riders are one of the biggest franchises in the league, playing their home games at Eden Gardens, the second largest cricket stadium in the world, and one of just three sides to win multiple titles. Last season, they snuck into the finals, where they beat Sunrisers Hyderabad in their first finals game before being soundly defeated by the Indians in their next game.
In 2018, they are expected to once again feature in the top half of the standings, and Karthik will have a huge role to play. The Knight Riders are accustomed to unparalleled stability in their leadership, and this will be the first season since 2010 which will see a captain other than Gambhir. Karthik is plenty experienced, both in the IPL and in cricket in general, and will no doubt relish the challenge.