After featuring in just one match for Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League (IPL) last year, the Karnataka middle-order batsman began the domestic season on a high. In the Duleep Trophy, he piled up 375 runs from three matches, which included an unbeaten 166 to emerge the highest run-getter of the tournament.
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Just when things looked promising, he had a mediocre run in Karnataka’s Mushtaq Ali T20 title triumph, returning 203 runs in eight innings. But his performance really dipped in the Vijay Hazare Trophy which followed as he scored a measly 66 runs from six outings.
Now in the UAE for the IPL, the 28-year-old is looking ahead. Back to training after a five-month pandemic-induced break, Karun is eager to showcase an improved version of himself.
Karun, who captained Karnataka to the semifinals of the Ranji Trophy earlier this year, has often been weighed down by expectations that arise from his unbeaten triple ton against England, a mark he notched in the fifth Test in Chennai in December 2016.
He knows the record of being only the second Indian to breach the 300-barrier in Test cricket is his for keeps. However, instead of looking back at what was, he is now looking ahead at what can be.
After a gruelling season, Karun believes the break gave him enough time to reflect on his game and life. “The break helped me work on what I can do differently from what I’ve done in the past few seasons,” Karun said. “I used the time well to think about the various aspects of my game and life in general. It helped me better myself.”
Asked if the past season would weigh on his mind when he goes out to bat again, Karun said, “It would have weighed on me if I had gone straight into the IPL season. But, these five months helped me shed those memories. It feels like the start of something new and not the continuation of a season. I’m sure the hard work will pay off.”
The addition of spinners K Gowtham and J Suchith this season, takes the tally of Karnataka players in the Punjab franchise to five, which according to Karun is a comfort factor.
“It helps to have (KL) Rahul as the captain because we have played cricket together for so long and understand each other’s game. He knows what to expect from us. As a team we are looking forward to putting in our best efforts and winning the trophy,” Karun said.
The other advantage for Karun will be the presence of former India captain Anil Kumble at the helm of cricket operations. Karun made his India debut when Kumble was coach of the national team. “He gave me my international debut and I made my landmark score with him at the helm. I take those good and positive memories with me into the IPL.”
Last month Karun suffered a minor setback when he tested positive for Covid-19. Speaking in public for the first time about his infection, Karun said, “The virus reacts differently in each person. For a few days I had fever and mild chest congestion, but was fine in a week. It is about being healthy and fit and I’m sure as a nation, we’ll beat the virus soon.”