The curious case of Dinesh Karthik
Dinesh Karthik is a talented right-handed batsman. His shots through the offside are a treat to watch. He is a player who can anchor the innings and up the ante when needed. Though he made his debut in 2004, he has only played 79 ODIs till now.
He is one among the unlucky wicketkeepers who didn't get enough opportunities because of MS Dhoni's fantastic career. Being a fighter, Karthik has fought hard and earned his place as a pure batsman many times. He, however, hasn't been able to cement his place in the Indian squad yet.
He made a return to the Indian squad for the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 based on his consistent show in the domestic circuit. Since then, India has played 32 ODIs while Karthik has featured in only eight of them. Remember, he is in the team as a specialist batsman, not as a backup wicketkeeper for MS Dhoni.
India have been looking for a proper No. 4 batsman for a long time now. They have tried and tested Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane, and Hardik Pandya there.
Karthik also got a go at the No. 4 spot. He scored a couple of fifties - 50* against West Indies and 64* against New Zealand at the position. It seemed like Karthik sealed the No. 4 spot. He, however, got only two more chances at that position, in which he made 0 off 18 balls and 26* off 31 balls.
With Virat Kohli rested for the home series against Sri Lanka in 2017, Shreyas Iyer got a chance to bat at the No. 3 spot and he made full use of it. The Mumbaikar smashed two consecutive half-centuries and pushed his case for inclusion in the full-strength team.
In the recently concluded South African series, Karthik was all set to bat at No. 4, but Kohli opted for 'opener' Ajinkya Rahane. Rahane grabbed the opportunity with both hands and scored a brilliant 79 in the opening game. Karthik could have got his chance at No. 5 when Kedhar Jadhav was injured after the first three games of the six-match series. But Iyer was tried instead.
With the series done and dusted, Kohli could have tried his reserve batsmen for the final ODI but decided to rest only Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The Tamil Nadu batsman and Manish Pandey didn't get a single game in the series.
Pandey got his chance in the first T20I and Suresh Raina was included in the playing eleven straight away. Karthik, however, is still waiting for a chance. He may not even get a single game in the series.
It is tough to be part of the squad but not in the playing eleven. It is even tougher when you have done well with the bat. Since his comeback into the team, he has scored 183 runs at an impressive average of 61.00. While it is true that Rahane was tried at No. 4 because of his solid technique against pace bowling, Karthik deserved a longer run at that position.
Karthik will surely get more chances in the future. Will he get ample opportunities to prove his worth? Only time will tell. It will be a hard pill to swallow for Karthik though if he has to face the axe after getting limited chances.