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Vol. XXVIII No. 14, November 1-15, 2018
The 2018 Tamil Nadu Premier League threw a surprise when the unfancied Siechem Madurai Panthers beat the tournament favourites Dindigul Dragons in a near one-sided contest. The hero of the winners was opening batsman Arun Karthik who finished the game with a scintillating unbeaten 75. With this score, Karthik also emerged as the tournament’s highest run-getter with an aggregate of 472 which included six half centuries.
The final played at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, was bowler-friendly despite what the commentators said before the start of the game that it was an easy track and would produce plenty of runs. Unhesitatingly, the Panthers on winning the toss sent the Dragons to bat first. The move clicked as the latter struggled for runs right from the start losing half their wickets for just 21.
Narayan Jagadeesan, who took over the Dragons’ captaincy after Ravichandran Ashwin’s departure for England to join the Indian team, alone batted with confidence, hitting 51. Nevertheles, the Dragons were bowled out for just 117 with just one delivery left.
Panthers’ right-arm seamer Abhishek Tanwar used the wicket and the conditions well claiming four for 30. His right-arm seam partner T.D. Lokesh Raj who was playing only his third TNPL game claimed three wickets for 31 runs. Leg spinner Varun Chakravarthy picked up two wickets for just nine runs off his four overs, one of which was a maiden over.
It was surprising that Dragons, who scored 203 for six in the first qualifier and dismissed Panthers for just 128, were bowled out cheaply. The Panthers, after their splendid show in the second qualifier, hit peak form just in time.
The Madurai team was in for a shock when it began chasing its small target losing three wickets for just two runs to left-arm spinner Silambarasan who took the new ball. All the three dismissed batsmen, failed to score. However, the reliable Karthik played with his head down before opening out skillfully as he hit four fours and four sixes facing 50 balls for his unbeaten 75. Shujit Chandran (38 not out off 49 deliveries) gave excellent support as the pair but on an unbroken 117-run partnership for the fourth wicket and carried Panthers safely home. Karthik signaled the win with a splendid off-driven six off paceman Mohammed.
Karthik was duly. named Player-of-the-Match and Player-of-the-Tournament and fully deserved the accolades for his splendid displays throughout this edition of TNPL. Tanwar’s wicket tally in the tournament went to 15 following his splendid bowling in the final.
A cursory glance at Karthik’s tournament statistics clearly shows the value of his presence at the top of the batting order. The Panthers triumphed whenever Karthik scored and this he did with cricketing precision which helped him amass 472 runs in tournament which included six half centuries.
The 32-year old wicket-keeper batsman who turns out for Assam in the Indian domestic cricketing tournament reserved his best for the qualifier game and the finals and propelled his team to success.
Karthik had been adept at turning games into his side’s fortunes many times in the past. Coming to mind is his game for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 2011Champions League game against the South Australian Redbacks. He initially had an IPL contract with Chennai Super Kings and was bought by RCB that season. That move paid off quite spectacularly in the Champions League later that year, when his last-ball six against South Australia took Royal Challengers to the semi-finals.
Originally a right-handed top-order batsman and occasional opener, Karthik began his first-class career with 149 on debut against Karnataka in 2008-09. He was part of a strong Tamil Nadu batting line up that season, scoring 344 runs in four games. Karthik began his mainstream career in Sri Lanka, where he represented Radureliya Sports Club for one season. He was the leading run-scorer for his club, with 213 runs in nine games in the 50-over tournament.
Why was Karthik not under consideration of the Tamil Nadu team selection, compelled him to play for Assam. But he has since then been the Northeastern State team’s batting mainstays. He enjoyed a great Ranji season for Tamil Nadu in 2009-10, scoring 573 Ranji runs at 53.19.
While Karthik played for Assam for three seasons, from 2014-15 to 2016-17, he accumulated over 1,300 runs. He played for Kerala in the 2017-18 season and aggregated 332 runs. His performances in the just-concluded TNPL season bear testimony to the fact that Karthik is still a prolific run-getter. Tamil Nadu could reconsider its selection policy and induct Karthik into the team again as the State side badly needs some experience in the middle order. – (Courtesy: Straight Bat.)