Dinesh Karthik (second right). © AFP
Dinesh Karthik (second right). © AFP

Dinesh Karthik became the first Indian to slam a last-ball six to win a T20I, in the Nidahas Trophy 2018 final, against Bangladesh on Sunday. The nation toasted his success — in fact, the fans cannot get over that lofted six, over cover, to seal the deal. In an exclusive interview with Indian Express, Karthik opened up on how he was trying to be a step ahead of Rubel Hossain (who conceded 22 in the penultimate over). He also credited Mumbaikar Abhishek Nayar for helping Karthik rediscover himself.

How did he feel when the ball cleared the ropes? “I knew I had connected very well and it really went very flat. The ground in Sri Lanka is big. As soon as I hit it, I got the feeling that it’s going because the ball had hit the centre of the bat, and the bat didn’t turn also. But since it went too flat, somewhere there was a little bit of doubt. It went a little over the rope.”

Had Karthik not taken India over the line, Indian fans would have targeted Vijay Shankar. Batting for the first time in international cricket, Shankar failed to get going under crunch situation. His 17 took 19 balls, but more importantly, he conceded four consecutive dot balls to Mustafizur Rahman. However, Karthik termed this experience as a brilliant “learning curve” for Shankar: “Look, every cricketer has gone through a phase where he tries to hit but can’t connect on a certain day. He was trying to connect with the ball but his timing was not coming through. Every batsman who has played this sport has gone through that. It takes a lot of nerve; it was unlucky for him as this was the first time he had batted for Team India. In a final, under pressure, things didn’t happen for him. But it’s an amazing learning for him.”

Rohit Sharma, walked away with plenty of accolades after being the second Indian — after Mohammad Azharuddin in 1998 — to lift the Nidahas Trophy. Though most of his tactics were sound, it seemed Rohit had erred by demoting Karthik to No. 7. Rohit later revealed that he wanted the experienced Karthik to counter Mustafizur, pulling off the ramp shots if required.  Karthik’s 8-ball unbeaten 29 turned Rohit’s decision into a masterstroke.

In reality, Rohit had stated that Karthik had felt agitated at his demotion. Karthik spoke out: “I was a little shocked. Angry is a bit strong word, I feel. The whole tournament I had batted at No. 6 and then to see Shankar go up, I was a little bit shocked. I have a good rapport with Rohit. Under his captaincy I have won the IPL. I obviously trust him a lot. I know he respects me as a cricketer. I was more shocked than angry — bit disappointed, yes. It was more like, ‘are you sure about the move as Vijay hasn’t batted the whole tournament?’ I knew there must be a reason behind it.”

As mentioned above, Mustafizur almost sealed things for Bangladesh with a splendid maiden over (four dot balls, one leg-bye, one wicket). The equation read 34 off 12 balls when Karthik faced his first ball, off Rubel: “I was just thinking to hit every ball for a boundary, as simple as that. There was nothing else you could do other than try to get a boundary off each ball. In the dugout, I was sitting next to R Sridhar, the fielding coach, who said we need one big over, two big overs etc. By the time I went in, we needed two big overs — there was no other way. Every ball had to matter at that stage.”

Rubel was the most experienced bowler on Sunday. His first 3 overs went for only 13, and he got rid of KL Rahul and Suresh Raina. Shakib Al Hasan entrusted him to bowl an economic penultimate over, to ensure a reasonable buffer for non-specialist Soumya Sarkar.

Little did they know that Rubel, and not Soumya, would fall apart. There was proper planning, too, behind Rubel’s annihilation in that (now) historic over: ”The previous game I played, he had bowled a yorker to me and the ball was also reversing. I knew that he will try a yorker again. I wanted to get under the ball, so that I can get some elevation. So I stood ahead of the crease. Usually I stay deep but I went forward this time — the idea was to try to connect with the ball as early as possible to get the elevation. And I hit it well over long on.”

Karthik followed that six with a four, and then another six. That one was planned, too: “This time I stood deep in the crease. I knew he was not going for a yorker as he was already hit. So I stayed deep in the crease. It kind of clicked. I was trying to think what the bowler will be doing, and it went well.”

Abhishek Nayar: The man who led to Karthik Vol 2.

“Yes, he was the one who taught me (to use the crease better). When we practised, he used to say how deep one should go into the crease as he used to do that very well. He told me how to stay deep in the crease and use the speed of the ball. I was lacking those points. In the past, I would probably step out blindly.

“I think whatever little success I have had now, I owe it to Nayar. He didn’t have to do what he did for me. For him to spend time with me — why should he spend time with me? I haven’t given one rupee to him. What have I done for him? Nothing. He has helped me, been just giving me — knowledge, time, training tips, and he has done a lot for me. If I am where I am today, of course family and close friends have played a big role, but as they say, Mata, pita, guru deivam — he has been my guru over the last few years and has taught me a lot of things. I owe everything to him. Very lucky to have found somebody like him to guide me — he has gone through a lot of pain, apart from happiness, in this sport and that he could give me time was so important. He never said no to anything that I have asked. He has always been there for me. He has an unbelievable heart — the amount of stuff he does for underprivileged kids , I don’t know how many cricketers do what he does.”