Dinesh Karthik in the firing line again
Not many people might know that Dinesh Karthik made his debut for India way back in 2004. Like most other Indian 'keepers, he was also sidelined by the unparalleled success of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. However, he was always been there and thereabout, always making a claim for himself.
With an average of 25 in Test matches and 31 in one-day internationals, he was never a regular member of the Indian team for the last 14 years. But, in the last couple of years, Karthik has done all he could to revolutionize his career.
He was always been criticised for this lack of match-winning ability. He was never a natural striker of the cricket ball. Nor was he utterly consistent. What has changed in his career then? Maybe, it was that memorable match-winning cameo at the Nidhahas Trophy final against Bangladesh when he literally pulled out a victory from the jaws of defeat.
It might seem strange that an eight ball 29 can change someone's career at the age of 33. However, it was indeed the case with Karthik. He reinvented himself as a 'finisher'. Things became even better when he was asked to lead the Kolkata Knight Riders in 2018 IPL. KKR qualified for the playoffs under his leadership.
His own batting form was prolific throughout the tournament. He scored 498 runs in the tournament at a strike rate close to 148. He has been spending a lot of time in the gym, making himself fitter and stronger. He is now winning games for whichever team he is playing. He averaged 61 in T20Is in 2018 and had a strike rate of 152. That was quite a year for Karthik.
He was in the squad for the one-day internationals versus South Africa but did not get a single game. He got a just a solitary ODI in England and unfortunately, could not make the most of it. He then scored 146 runs in the Asia Cup 2018 at an average of close to 49.
Perhaps, one can easily argue that he did not do much wrong in whatever opportunities he got. However, he was still left out of the one-day team against the Windies. Since then, he has been competing with Rishabh Pant who has shown glimpses of real talent but has not set the world on fire.
Karthik performed well in T20I series against Australia. He scored a masterful 13-ball 30 at the Gabba when India was under a lot of pressure. Despite his heroic efforts, India fell short by a narrow margin. He redeemed himself when he supported Virat Kohli by scoring a quickfire 22 which helped India pull-off an impressive run-chase at the SCG.
Even in the ODI at Adelaide, he helped Dhoni at the back end of the innings by scoring a 14-ball 25. It allowed India to win that game.
Karthik has been given a role to come at number 6 and play these small cameos under tough situations. He has been relishing it and has played this role reasonably well.
He did not have much to do in the ODI series against New Zealand. However, in the last T20I at Wellington, he scored a blistering 33 of just 16 balls when India was chasing 212. Though India fell short by 4 runs, it was quite an effort by Karthik.
Clearly, he has been able to deliver whatever the team expects from him. However, it is only Karthik in the firing line again as he has been dropped from the one-day side which is going to face Australia.
This is India's last one-day series before the World Cup. Team management will not want to take any half measures. The players who have been removed from the squad may have to end their dream of being a part of the Indian team for this year's World Cup.
There is no possibility that he has been rested or he himself has demand any rest. Even if India wanted to test Pant, who has been competing with him for a back-up keeper's slot, both Karthik and Pant could have been picked. However, it wasn't to be for Karthik as the selectors might have made up their mind to go ahead with Pant.
Perhaps, India needs a sixth bowling option which he does not provide at number 6. Nor can he be used as a floater like Pant who can bat at all positions. One has to feel for Karthik. He has not done anything wrong to be left out but Pant as well has not done anything exemplary as yet.
It will be a real test for Pant. If he fails in this series too or Kartik has a magnificent IPL, who knows, perhaps, Karthik might still have an outside chance to get into the squad for the World Cup.