There was quite an extraordinary finish of the kind that makes the eyes light up. Dinesh Karthik may have settled a 32-year-old jinx about the final punch of the kind Javed Miandad delivered in the desert. The Karachiite changed the course of cricket history back in 1986 for his team and nation wilting under the glare of Indian superiority in limited-overs cricket from Lord’s in 1983. This time around, Karthik merely reiterated that history is on India’s side again with that flashy flat six sailing over extra cover.
Team India used to thrive on MS Dhoni’s finishing power as in that World Cup victory-sealing six in the final in Mumbai seven years ago. With time, that power has somewhat faded and it needed the touch of another seasoned batsman-keeper in Karthik to revive this art of a dramatic flourish at the climax. The feat just reinforces the argument against T20 being a young man’s game. Young legs might bring great advantage in most situations and yet it needs the touch of experience to bring off a last ball coup of the Karthik kind.
The art of finishing is predicated upon a cool neve. It may appear a bit paradoxical that the gentleman prone to little nervous accidents like dropping things or missing his step should be the one with the nerveless hands on the bat at the finish. But Karthik at the crease is a different proposition from Karthik the man. He might fumble with the wedding ring and drop the man of the match award but on sighting a catch a few feet on either side and his gloves would be closing on the leather without fail. The same ‘Cool Hand’ dispatched that length ball over the ropes.
Sunil Gavaskar gave the nickname of ‘Gadbadango’ to Srikkanth for his habit of dropping everything in his eternal show of restless nerves. If there was a crash or a big bang in the dressing room, they would immediately believe Chika was behind it, and not without reason. Apparently, DK is picking up the same reputation. But he suffered no lapses in keeping with that emerging reputation with the precise stroke for the moment that will now go down in history as the best finish for Team India in limited-overs cricket. No Indian has struck a six off the last ball when more than four were needed to win.
Nothing succeeds like success. Team India has been on that dizzy curve since the forgettable Champions Trophy last June. The virtual second string doing the job in the triangular T20 in Colombo makes this an even more creditable performance. The fact that the team is trying in every situation and proving that the tough get going when the going gets tough is sufficient to reiterate we are on the right cricketing path. Youngsters like Washington Sundar rising stresses the point that the talent bank is rich enough to keep providing players who will keep slotting into specialist roles smoothly.
On the flip side, India finding friends in Colombo is also a history-changing event. Having been to Sri Lanka for years during their civil war, there was always a bit of tension to suffer. The cricketing rivalry also grew so much thanks to India’s Big Brother attitude of the early days that the Indians and Sri Lankan cricketers were always staring each other down on the field. The Lankan crowds used to be blatantly anti-Indian and the feelings may have been stoked again by the geopolitics. It was a pleasant change then to learn that the Sri Lankans were doing the Nagin dance to celebrate India’s winning performances against the Bangladeshis.
The change is owed to the ugly incidents that took place in the clash between the home side and the ultra-ambitious Bangla-deshis in a league encounter. To threaten to withdraw from a game was typical Bangladeshi churlishness. That they returned to make their point on the field of play was a victory for cricket, not for the protesters. There seemed to be a lot of immature behaviour under the tensions of the game situation. But, at no time does any cause become so important as to mock the game of cricket. The Bangladeshis might see the wisdom of it all one day.