Why is Dinesh Karthik being treated so unjustly by BCCI and the Indian selectors?
The crowd grew silent as Manish Pandey holed out to long on. Surely this was the game, right? The next batsman took his guard: boom, a six over long-on. Boom, a four wide of long on. Boom another six over square leg.
He made his way to 16 off three balls while at the other end his partner Vijay Shankar had crawled his way to a painstaking 12 off 15. He hit the last ball for four and ended the over with 22 off 6.
Shankar scored just one run off the first two balls in the last over. Another single after that meant nine runs were required from the last three balls. Shankar slices it past the third man; it's a four. Five from 2 now, the match is almost evenly poised.
Next ball, a wicket: India's hopes have shattered. Five required off one, now the heart of every Indian fan is thumping, the pressure is on the man on strike. And then, six! The batsman thunders the ball into the stands, and the crowd goes wild.
This innings, 29 off eight, would end up defining Dinesh Karthik's career.
Karthik is one of the most unlucky cricketers to have ever played for India. Despite making his debut before MS Dhoni, he has made only sporadic appearances for India in international cricket.
Karthik has made multiple comebacks to the Indian side on the basis of his heavy scoring in the domestic arena. His most recent comeback came against the West Indies; since then, he has been in exceptional form.
Karthik has had his purple patch of form ever since the 2017 IPL; in the period since his comeback, he has averaged a stunning 272 runs in successful chases. In this same period, Dhoni averages a very good 142 with the bat.
What stands out though is the fact that Karthik has a much higher strike rate in these innings, which suggests he is performing the role of the finisher to perfection.
Here are some facts that will further reinforce my point. When the squad for the Australian tour at home was announced, Karthik was averaging a whopping 68 runs in his last 9 ODI innings. At the same time, KL Rahul averaged a mere 15 runs in his last 9 ODI innings.
When it came to T20Is, Karthik averaged a brilliant 44 runs with a strike rate of more than 150, while Rahul has an average of 15 and a strike rate of 110 in his last 7 innings. Based on these facts, a couple of thoughts arise.
First, it is clear that India is looking at Rahul as a backup opener. But while he can be used as an opener, Karthik is a proven floater. He has opened the innings a couple of times and has performed commendably too.
If not as an opener, he can also be used as a No. 4 batsman. In fact, if you look at the his record at that position (264 runs from nine innings at an average of 52 and strike rate of 71), it is clear that Karthik has thus far provided the most stability to the middle order.
While his strike rate at No. 4 may be a tad low, it can be inferred from his T20I record that he has no trouble accelerating when the need arrives.
Now coming to his finishing abilities, as I stated earlier, he has a mind-boggling average of 272 in successful chases. That shows how big of an impact he has when finishing the innings. This record is unmatched by any other player in the last couple of years.
Another point to be noted is that Karthik's glovework is actually quite good - and at the very least, better than Rishabh Pant's keeping. Even Rohit Sharma saw this and that was why he chose Karthik to keep over Pant. And we all know how good of a tactician Rohit is.
There is enough evidence that he can be the backup keeper. But he can play as a pure batsman as well, and his excellent fielding backs him up in this regard.
All these facts lead to one million dollar question: why test out Pant if you already have another backup keeper who is in the form of his life?
Ideally, Karthik should be given enough game time so that he can practice building his innings - which is the only thing that isn't up to the standards of all the other aspects of his batting. He can always rest himself in the IPL for a couple of matches, so why rest him - if he was indeed rested - right now?
Karthik can be a part of the World Cup squad and fulfill three major roles - the role of a finisher, the role of a middle order batsman, and the role of a backup opener. He deserves better than what the BCCI has given him, and should be an important and sure starter for the mega event in England.
Do you also think Karthik has been mis-treated by the Indian selectors? Comment your opinion below.