From floater to finisher: The second coming of Dinesh Karthik

Last Updated: Tue, Mar 20, 2018 17:03 hrs
Dinesh Karthik was at his best with the willow during the recently concluded tri-nation series

After his blistering 29* off 8 balls helped India claim the Nidahas trophy, the accolades have been pouring in for Dinesh Karthik.

His Tamil Nadu and India teammate Ravichandran Ashwin tweeted that knowing Karthik, he has been waiting for an opportunity like this and it arrived in the finals. Well, getting the opportunity is one thing, seizing it is something else altogether and that's exactly what Karthik has done. 

But in truth, DK has waited 14 years for this moment to arrive.

He was part of the 2004 Under-19 World Cup squad with the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, Robin Uthappa and Ambati Rayudu.

He was the first one among them to break into the senior side, making his ODI debut in September the same year and making his Test bow two months later. But his career since then has been anything but smooth. 

His ODI debut arrived at Lord's. Batting first, he departed for just 1 run but an acrobatic run out of England skipper Michael Vaughn which effectively won the match for India was the lasting image from that day.

Things were looking up but then came the arrival of MS Dhoni. And while Dhoni's arrival was a boon for Indian cricket, it has been nothing short of a bane as far as Karthik's career is concerned. 

His Test career also showed glimpses of promise but it wasn't enough. On the 2007 tour of England, he replaced Virender Sehwag as the opener and finished as India's top-scorer, overtaking the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly.

It resulted in a rare away Test series win for India in England but unfortunately, that was forgotten too. As things stand, in a 14-year career, he has only played 79 ODIs and 23 Tests, the last of which came in 2010.

Once Dhoni established himself as a wicketkeeper-batsman, Karthik had his task cut out. He knew the wicketkeeper slot was out of bounds and had to depend exclusively on his batting ability to earn a place in the starting XI.

When Dhoni took over the reins of captaincy across all three formats, it became increasingly difficult for Karthik to make a case for himself.

He would only get a look in when Dhoni was injured or rested. Even after Dhoni announced his retirement from Tests, the younger Wriddhiman Saha has been in favour.  

It is a difficult situation to be in, knowing that even if he does perform on the rare occasions that he gets to, he would have to make way for the returning Dhoni. And playing once in a while hardly helps one develop confidence or rhythm and it is very difficult to take those chances and make them count. And this truth is not lost on Karthik.

Talking to PTI on the eve of the final, Karthik spoke about how every tournament is make or break for him: "From where I sit, every tournament is going to be important. I have one bad tournament, I will be on my way out. Every tournament, I have to be on the top of my game, trying to do as well as I can. Opportunities are few and far between. The competition in the Indian team is so strong that every time you get an opportunity, you have to try to do your best. I also want to be a person, that every time I am given an opportunity, it’s like, 'wow, this guy can really do well and he needs to be there".

And while he has been in and out of the national side, he has focussed on his domestic career and packs in a world of experience. His performances for Tamil Nadu are commendable and he is sought-after at IPL auctions as well.

He was signed by Delhi Daredevils for a whopping Rs 12.5 crore, the second highest draw in the 2014 auctions, and this season has been signed by Kolkata Knight Riders to replace Gautam Gambhir as skipper for Rs 7.6 crore. 

 
  Matches Innings Not outs Runs Highest Average Strike rate
First class 157 238 19 9214 213 42.07 59.20
IPL 152 134 17 2903 86 24.81 125.94

 

And if his Nidahas trophy performance is anything to go by, Karthik is as ready as he is ever going to be. Apart from his blistering knock in the final, Karthik remained unbeaten in all the 5 innings in the series and in T20 cricket, that is as good as it gets.

 
  Matches Innings Not outs Runs Highest Average Strike rate
Dinesh
Karthik
5 5 5 85 39* - 197.67

 

His performance in the final earned him praise from his skipper Rohit Sharma as well: "Most important thing he has is belief in himself. Whatever situation comes, he's ready - whether he bats up the order or down the order. That's the kind of guy we need in our team."

Next up is the IPL which is another golden opportunity for Karthik, the new skipper of the Kolkata franchise. From the looks of it, at 32 years of age - 14 years after his India debut - there could still be a few more chapters in the Dinesh Karthik story.

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