Dinesh Karthik 2.0: Assured, calm and unassumingly sagacious
Dinesh Karthik is no stranger to the Indian national team. He made his international debut in 2004. In the 14 years that followed since his debut, Karthik has donned many roles. One day he opened the innings. On another day he assumed the role of a finisher. He played as a wicket-keeper when Dhoni was unavailable and hardly kept wickets if Dhoni was playing. His international career has seen many comebacks but never has he cemented his place in the side.
When you think about Karthik, it is easy to label him as an undeserving player who has done just enough in the domestic circuit to keep himself in and around the Indian team. This would not be an ideal observation since DK has been an impact player for India at times.
DK was the Man of the Match during the 2010 Asia Cup final when India won their first title in fifteen years. He was also India's highest run-getter in their last Test series win in England. Over the years Karthik has shown glimpses of his potential. But what he has not shown is assurance.
Ask anyone who has followed DK's career closely over the years and they might exactly tell you when he will go for a cheeky late cut or a mistimed paddle over the keeper's head. Despite composing himself before taking his stance with a practice that is quite uniquely his, Karthik was never assured while batting.
This has changed now and finally, he is pronounced at the crease. He looks settled and that is why this comeback of Karthik to the Indian team is viewed entirely differently from all the many comebacks of his in the past. He no longer looks like a cat on a hot tin roof but like a man who has come to terms with his powers. He is now assured, calm and unassumingly sagacious.
He was part of the victorious 2007 World T20 winning squad as well as the 2013 Champions Trophy winning squad. But Karthik's greatest night was when he helped India beat Bangladesh in the Nidahas Trophy final.
People who had seen his unbeaten 50* against the Windies last year would be less surprised with this career-changing heroics during the Nidahas Trophy final. That performance was so much better compared to his previous fifties because Karthik stayed till the end and finished the game for his team.
His skills were never in doubt but it was his temperament and composure that was letting him down. A calm Karthik finished a tricky chase to give India a 3-1 series win. It was a minor knock which showcased major improvements for Karthik. But 18 March 2018 was when DK truly arrived.
The 33-year-old never panicked in his 8-ball burst against the Tigers. Mustafizur Rahman had just bowled a beautiful over and Vijay Shankar at the other end was struggling to time the ball.
The Karthik of old would have never been able to pull off the heist successfully. Unfortunately for the aggressive Bangladeshi fans, this was a newer version of Dinesh Karthik who was batting. More than the strokes it was his presence in the middle that was soothing to the eyes. He appeared calm. He played with confidence and he did not doubt his ability.
As a captain who does not appear as cunning nor shrewd as many other captains, he was still making good decisions (One instance where he bought the spinners in the final overs against Rajasthan Royals in the Eliminator is a good example) which proved critical in Kolkata Knight Riders punching above their weights in the recently concluded Indian Premier League season.
This ability of his to read the game well has made him a worthy finisher with the bat. A tally of 498 runs at an average of 49.80 and a strike rate of 147.77, is a testament to his new-found assurance.
Karthik makes another retur to the Indian test team after eight years. This time though we can believe that his comeback is indeed guaranteed with more assurance than ever before. DK v2.0 is here to stay.
Karthik seems to be in a good space in his personal life. He is matured and his thinking is precise. Experience has lifted his overall skills. Success with the bat has bred confidence into his wicket-keeping. DK has become a new player. This is his v2.0.
How long do you think can Dineh Karthik maintain his newfound assuredness? Tell us in the comments below!