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Talking Points: Is Dinesh Karthik out of form, or is he being used badly?

Also, is Chris Gayle at No. 3 working? Oh yes, and here's why

Alagappan Muthu
Alagappan Muthu
Dinesh Karthik in a pensive mood, Kolkata Knight Riders vs Chennai Super Kings, IPL 2020, Abu Dhabi, October 7, 2020

Dinesh Karthik in a pensive mood  •  BCCI

Talking points from IPL 2020 game between the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Kings XI Punjab.
Are Knight Riders batting Karthik too high?
Possibly. Dinesh Karthik has always wanted to be a finisher. He wants to do that role for India. As the Knight Riders captain, more often than not, he played down the order. He has fashioned a T20 game that revolves around risky shots - hits in the air, sweeps and reverse-sweeps, etc. This only works when he has just a few balls to play.
But this season, the Knight Riders have used him as a top-order batsman. One innings at No. 3, 30 off 23 balls. Four innings at No. 4, Seven off 19 balls. These aren't good numbers. But the one fifty he made - a match-winning innings - came from No. 5. The Knight Riders might think about pulling Karthik back down the order to maximise his impact. Especially now with Andre Russell injured.
Is Cummins working for Knight Riders
With only six wickets from 44 overs, Pat Cummins is topping the wrong list. Well. He's actually no. 2... among fast bowlers with the fewest wickets (min 25 overs bowled) this IPL.
Knight Riders bought Cummins for INR 15.5 crores (approx. USD 2 million). That's not his fault. When the auction took place in December 2019, he was one of the most exciting players in the world. The only thing is he's a specialist bowler. He has only 24 balls to affect a game. If things don't go his way - as they aren't now - that's a major investment backfiring.
This is why it is risky to pay so much for a player with only one specialist skill, even if he is of the calibre of Cummins. The man is a world-beater, but even his form can dip.
Were Knight Riders a batsman short?
Kamlesh Nagarkoti walked in at the fall of the fifth wicket. He has a T20 average of 7.5. So yeah.
Now, he only batted that high because the Knight Riders wanted to hold back Pat Cummins, their bowling-allrounder who has already hit a fifty this IPL, for the final overs. It didn't work and they crumbled to 149 for 9.
The Knight Riders' batting fell off a cliff after Eoin Morgan at No. 5. Russell's injury has wrecked the balance of this team.
In the reserves, they have two specialist middle-order batsmen - Siddhesh Lad and Nikhil Naik. Neither has proven credentials in the IPL though. There is also Tom Banton - again no proven IPL credentials but he is highly rated around the world. The only problem is he is a top-order specialist in a team full of top-order specialists. Average 30.68, strike rate 155. As soon as he is pushed down, those numbers dip to 11 and 97.
With a place in the playoffs at stake, there may be a case for the Knight Riders installing Banton at the top and pulling Nitish Rana down to No. 3 and Karthik back to No. 5 or 6. That way they won't face a situation where after they score 70 for 0 between the third and eighth overs of a game, but then crash to 69 for 6 in the next 12 overs.
Is Gayle at No. 3 working?
Before this IPL, Chris Gayle had batted outside his preferred opening position a grand total of eight times in 401 T20 innings.
But at the Kings XI, even after their regular opener Mayank Agarwal got injured, Gayle remained at No. 3 and there appears to be a sound reason for it.
One, Rahul can get into his innings better when he has a partner willing to run hard. And two, Gayle gets to start his innings against slower bowlers who have little chance of cramping him for room or hustling him with pace.
This IPL, Gayle has a strike rate of 164.58 against spin. Against pace, it's 123.43. He even took 17 runs off Narine on Monday, the most he's ever done in an IPL game.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo