Is this the end of the road for Dinesh Karthik?
The emergence of Rishabh Pant into the international arena has had a severe impact on the careers of two senior Indian cricketers, namely M.S. Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik. While M.S. Dhoni just about managed to hang on to his place in the team, Dinesh Karthik lost his place to Rishabh Pant as the second wicket-keeper and middle-order batsman in the ODIs for the series against West Indies.
That brings us to the next pertinent question - Is this the end of the road for Dinesh Karthik?
Karthik is the senior-most player in the Indian team as he made his debut in One-Day Internationals in September 2004. M.S. Dhoni made his debut in December in the same year.
Karthik ‘s career from the beginning to end has been a stop-start progress all the way through. He has played in 86 one-day matches spread over a period of 14 years and scored 1663 runs at an average of 31. Karthik has scored a total of 9 fifties with the highest score of 79.
Dinesh Karthik has always been a game-trier who couldn’t make the kind of impact that an M.S. Dhoni could. In fact all through his career, Karthik couldn’t do justice to his talent by making a telling contribution and playing the role of a match winner. He normally scores a 30 here and a 50 there to prolong his career on most of the occasions, which is simply not enough.
That has a telling effect on his career because as a wicket-keeper batsman, a score of 30 would be justified along with the main job behind the wickets. But when you are playing as a specialist batsman, your job doesn’t end there as you are expected to score big and take the team home. Dinesh Karthik hasn’t been all that successful in that respect. In his last 32 innings in one-day internationals, Karthik has crossed 50 only twice; not a great record for a specialist batsman.
In the recent Asia Cup, Karthik had scores of 33, 31 not out, 1 not out, 44 and 37 at a healthy average of 49. Out of the 5 innings that Karthik played, he remained unbeaten twice and once in the tied match against Afghanistan, he was done in. All these were useful contributions but nonetheless nothing earth-shattering.
Karthik’s moment came in the final when he had to rebuild the innings in the company of M.S. Dhoni after the loss of the openers and Ambati Rayadu. A score of 75 not out could have saved his career. There wasn’t much pressure in terms of the required run rate and the experienced Dhoni was at the other end. But Karthik scratched around for 37 off 61 balls before losing his wicket to Mahmadullah.
Rishabh Pant’s scintillating form with the bat has compelled the selectors to include him in the team at the cost of Dinesh Karthik. The irony of Dinesh Karthik’s career has always been in losing out to competition. When Karthik started his career he had only Parthiv Patel to tackle. Then Dhoni came along and Karthik had to take the back seat. As a result, Karthik never got the long rope to establish his career.
The current season started for Karthik on a bright note. He was chosen as the first choice wicket-keeper for the Test series against England in the absence of the injured Wriddhiman Saha. But he missed out on the opportunity mainly because of his poor show with the bat which resulted in Karthik losing his place in the Test team. Now comes the big blow when the selectors ignored him for the one day series against the West Indies.
Karthik at 33 is not so young. It seems now that the selectors have made up their mind to go with Rishabh Pant as the under-study to M.S. Dhoni for the World Cup 2019. It will be difficult for Dinesh Karthik to regain and retain his place in the team purely as a middle-order batsman, however fragile the Indian middle order is.
By taking Karthik out of the equation, the selectors have further complicated the Indian middle-order woes ahead of the World Cup. Now the big question on everyone’s mind is whether Rishabh Pant will be tried purely as a middle-order batsman in the West Indies one day series.
As far as Karthik is concerned, the unluckiest and unfortunate Indian player loses out to fierce competition yet again. It seems the proverbial “writing is on the wall”.