Dinesh Karthik’s second lease of life

With the two compelling compendiums against strong bowling attacks of Sri Lanka and Australia, the expectations from Dinesh Karthik have risen © AFP

Dinesh Karthik was lost in the wilderness, but he is making most of his second chance with the Indian team. His temperament, water-tight technique and ability to control the innings have been striking. He has the basic tenets to be a class player. Sarang Bhalerao looks at the life of this vivacious cricketer.

The twin tons of Dinesh Karthik against Sri Lanka and Australia shows the mature side of him. He is like an erudite Math professor who has complex equations on his fingertips. The composure, and the refrigerator-like temperament and class have come after tough times at the start of his career. Now is the time when his talent should marry opportunity. He is no more the impetuous teenager who was learning nuances of international cricket. The learning came the hard way, mind you.

As a 19-year-old, playing for India at Lord’s can be intimidating. The Mecca of cricket tests every sinew of your body. You are in awe of the atmosphere. The competitor within wants to leave an indelible mark on the world of cricket and announce his arrival. The thoughts: both positive and negative reflexively run through the mind. Negative thoughts though are like unwanted guests. The stage is set for a showdown.

In 2004, Karthik, 19, in his first outing with the bat, scored a 10-ball one. He was just outsmarted by the tall Steve Harmison, who made Karthik play an ugly shot — a half-hearted prod. At that time the question arose: Is this boy going to represent India for a long time? His wicket-keeping was impressive. His stumping off Michael Vaughan showed a glimpse of Karthik’s athletic ability. The leg-side collection and a dive to remove the bails require presence of mind and dexterity, which he had.

But the arrival of Mahendra Singh Dhoni changed everything. His meteoric rise overshadowed the career of Karthik. Although the two of them played together in the team, Karthik was a pure batsman, while Dhoni was easily the more impressive one, and became the leader of the side within three years. Despite that, Karthik’s rescue act against the West Indies in Cuttack, his unbeaten 58 against Bangladesh which prevented an ignominy of yet another defeat after the World Cup 2007, his 91 as a Test opener in England, his 79 when Sachin Tendulkar became first double centurion in ODI cricket and his match-winning innings of 66 in the final of the Asia Cup in 2009 were some of the defiant innings which vindicated his selection as a pure batsman. With the emergence of stroke-players, he became the forgotten man in Indian cricket history.

Perseverance was his ally, it always has been. Domestic cricket was the centre-stage where his performances were impressive. He piled on heaps of runs for Tamil Nadu and was always in the selection fringes, although Wriddhiman Saha made it to the Indian Test side. Parthiv Patel was registering decent performances. Yet, there is something about Karthik: the eagerness, the bubbliness and the intent with which he bats that always stands out.

A stint with Mumbai Indians in 2013 did him a world of good. Batting at No 3, he played couple of dazzling knocks and showed us the maverick side of Karthik. He forced his way into the Indian team for the Champions Trophy. And with the two compelling compendiums against strong bowling attacks of Sri Lanka and Australia, the expectations have risen. Karthik has earned his chances. Will he shine this time? He has all the ingredients to succeed. But what he needs to do is cook up a recipe for consistency. If he does so, his next step will be to cook up a recipe for greatness. But that is still a proverbial mile away.

(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)