Dinesh Karthik did nothing wrong to deserve the axe from the selectors before the One-Day International series against Australia. He made way for the in-form Yuvraj Singh and lost out to Ambati Rayudu, who the selectors wanted to give a proper chance. Sarang Bhalerao takes a look at Karthik’s chequered international career and finds out whether he is the fall guy of Indian cricket.
India needed only six runs from 21 deliveries against Pakistan at Birmingham in the recently-concluded ICC Champions Trophy 2013. Wahab Riaz came steaming in and bowled a short delivery at searing pace. The batsman worked the ball towards the leg-side off the backfoot and set out for a quick single. Towards the final few paces he realised he may fall short if the throw was accurate and displayed his acrobatic skills — a thing that came naturally to him — in order to finish the run. The jumper became soaked in soil but that’s the necessary price one has to put on his wicket. And when the name is Dinesh Karthik, it is a mandate — to give 100 per cent every single time on the field, since he, and many others, have no idea how and when an axe can fall upon them?
If one were to delineate Karthik and his role for India, one would consider various things. A person having a spring in his stride, a stop-gap arrangement (Karthik has never played more than 12 One-Day Internationals for India at a stretch) and a fall guy, may be. Life has not been easy for him. He has had to establish himself in the side which was replete with blessed players and precociously talented batsmen. The arrival of MS Dhoni and his rise to the top meant that Karthik had to keep himself on the selector’s radar with consistent performances. To his credit he has performed whenever opportunities have come his way, albeit answering the SOS calls. In 2010, he replaced Virender Sehwag during the Asia Cup, which was held in Sri Lanka. In the final, Karthik hit 66 and India won the coveted trophy after a gap of 15 years. Karthik was named Man-of-the-Match in the final.
Karthik was made the opener of the Test team in 2007 and he performed splendidly in England. He ensured that the star-studded middle-order was not exposed to the new ball. His role was to take the shine off the ball, but his stellar performances surely didn’t take the shine away from him. In fact, he was the find of the England tour in 2007. India won the Test series in England after 21 years. His best chance was to stake a claim in the side as a batsman since it was almost impossible to fight with Dhoni for the wicketkeeper’s spot.
Dhoni went on to become India’s captain in all three formats, which further compounded Karthik’s aspirations of donning the gloves.
Karthik has been making sporadic appearances for India. What can seal the deal for him, you may think? Is it a big hundred? Dhoni signed the deal with impregnability with his knocks of 148 and 183 against Pakistan and Sri Lanka respectively in One-Day International (ODI) cricket. Even today, people remember him for those two compelling compendiums. Subsequently Dhoni went on to become one of the best ODI finishers of the game. For Karthik, it is difficult to remember such a standout performance. He has only one hundred to show against his name for India that too in a Test match against Bangladesh in 2007 when four Indians got to the three-figure mark.
Yuvraj Singh’s return to form for India A and in the domestic competitions ensured that he made the cut into the Indian ODI side. The question was: Who was he going to replace? Either Karthik or Rayudu had to make way. Selectors went with Rayudu because they think he could be utilised better or in plain terms, he is a better batsman than Karthik. On current performances, Rayudu was better than Karthik in the India A matches in South Africa recently. Also Karthik had had a forgettable outing in the Caribbean ODI tri-series, although he scored a half-century against Zimbabwe recently.
So was he the easy target? What if he got chances like Rohit Sharma? Would the captain have the confidence to harness the potential in him? He is an excellent fielder; who can forget the goalkeeper-like dive to dismiss Graeme Smith in ICC World T20 2007? So it only boils down to his batting. Can he perform pyrotechnics — like say Yuvraj, Suresh Raina or Rohit? The answer may be no, which is why he had to miss the series against Australia.
Be rest assured that Karthik will keep fighting. He will keep breathing down the neck of the Indian youngsters. After all, he is only 28.
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)