Back with a Six - The story of Dinesh Karthik
The tension that night was palpable. The legend killers, Bangladesh, were on verge of their first T20I win against their giant neighbours India.
With a wicket-keeper batsman on strike, India needed five runs from the last ball. He received a length ball outside off-stump and heroically smashed it for a six. India often identified with this six-hitting wicket-keeper batsman as MS Dhoni. But for that night, he was different. He was Dinesh Karthik.
The 14-year cricket journey of Karthik has been full of paradoxes. He would leap and grab the farthest ball while he dropped a sitter that came with his name written on it.
He would pull off impossible of the stumpings while he conceded record number of byes. His most appreciated stint was in England playing all the classical shots at the opening slot while he diminished himself with all the ‘cheeky’ shots batting at seven for the rest of his career.
Born in Tamilnadu, Karthik took up wicket-keeping early to enhance his chances of surviving the enormous competition that exists at the age-group cricket.
But it was primarily his batting that captured the attention of selectors and he then joined the race for the spot of Indian wicket-keeper which remained vacant after Nayan Mongia’s sacking.
The first claim that Karthik made was at the home of Cricket in an ODI against England in 2004.
He dropped a catch of Michael Vaughan while keeping but pulled off a stunning stumping of the same batsman that remains etched in the memory of fans. His career was airborne after that much like him in attempting that stumping dismissal.
The Test debut against Australia in 2004 at Mumbai instilled confidence in Karthik as he kept well on a turning track where the match was over within two days. His first international stint ended in ten months as the runs dried up and wicket-keeping deteriorated.
The Tamilnadu batsman found himself back in the team as a specialist batsman this time. In early 2007, he batted as an opener against a hostile South African bowling attack and did well in the solitary Test. Karthik was then continued with for the Bangladesh tour too. The English summer came calling next.
The tour of England in 2007 was the zenith of Karthik’s career before the Nidahas Trophy Final happened. He ended the series as the highest run-getter from an Indian Test batting line-up that included Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly and VVS Laxman.
However, with the career graph that can be illustrated to explain the concept of zigzag shape, Karthik went out of the favor again with mediocre performances.
The next ten years of this TN batsman included the familiar circle of cricketer’s life, Perform — Get Selected — Fail — Get dropped — Back to Domestic Cricket.
While Karthik failed to establish himself in the Indian team, IPL offered him a chance of redemption every year.
After a stellar performance for MI in 2013, he was bought for a whopping 12.5 crores by Delhi Daredevils for the next season.
As if on cue, Karthik failed miserably in the 2015 season and was picked for only his base price by a new franchise, Gujarat Lions.
The ill-treatment hit the glovesman hard. He was dejected for the loss in value as the threat of career-end loomed largely.
With the help of Mumbai all-rounder Abhishek Nayar, Karthik resurrected his career and received an India call-up in 2017 after three-years of rejection.
The remarkable comeback was complete on 18th March 2018 against Bangladesh in the Nidahas Trophy Final at Colombo.
Needing 34 runs from 12 balls, Karthik conjured a miracle of 29*(8) that mesmerized India. He enjoyed a successful time leading the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL as well.
Now with Wriddhiman Saha out injured, Karthik finally has another shot at cementing the Indian Test spot.
With an all-important English tour to follow, the wicketkeeper-batsman will be hoping to be on the plane to England, a country where he achieved glory ten years ago.
It is time for Karthik to escape the cycle of excellence-mediocrity and shine brightly in the stellar background of Indian Cricket.
Do you think Dinesh Karthik would have a fantastic return into the Test team? Sound off in the comments section below!