World Cup 2019: The inexplicable selection of Dinesh Karthik
India, the favorites in the World Cup-semifinal, were tottering at 5/3, an unthinkable collapse had led to the Men in Blue standing on the edge of the precipice in pursuit of New Zealand's score of 239. India's top three, including the titans Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, had perished to dexterous swing bowling.
Out stepped the 34-year-old wicket-keeper who was playing as a specialist batsman in this crunch game. He joined another wicket-keeper, Rishabh Pant, at the crease, both had come out to bat in front of the actual wicket-keeper, and legend, MS Dhoni.
Karthik could have shut up his critics once and for all with a heroic knock that helped India pull off a great escape. It was not to be, after eons of scratching around, including an unconvincing boundary, Karthik returned to the hut courtesy of an incredible catch. He made 6 off 25 balls in an innings that never inspired any confidence.
Many eyebrows were raised when the Tamil Nadu-'keeper and Kolkata Knight Riders' captain was picked ahead of Pant as the back-up wicket-keeper for Dhoni. Karthik had an underwhelming Indian Premier League with just one innings of note and had only impressed in India colors last in a T20 match where he pulled off a tough chase at the climax against Bangladesh in the Nidahas trophy.
Pant was the future, his willow was more fluent, his 'keeping full of the exuberance of youth, if slightly callow. It was evident that Karthik was traveling only as a backup to MS Dhoni. Clearly, the selectors had chosen experience over youth for the biggest stage, but was he really required?
Flashback to Dravid, flash-forward to Rahul
India reached the 2003 World Cup final while playing Rahul Dravid as the keeper, just to maintain the balance of the team. Here, India were already taking KL Rahul, a capable, if occasional, wicket-keeper, who could have easily stepped in in an emergency where Dhoni was in trouble. As it turned out, India were playing 4 wicket-keepers in a single team with Pant also arriving as a replacement in a bit of a farcical situation.
Tough to defend
India's main issue in this World Cup was the fragile middle-order which needed more depth. This necessitated the selection of Pant, Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja in the semi-final. However, when the top-order failed to shield them in the crunch match, only Jadeja and, to an extent, Dhoni brought India close to a thrilling victory in a backs-to-the-wall job.
Karthik was a massive failure, just like his uninspired knock against Sri Lanka in his first outing. Pant began fluently, but threw away his wicket.
India badly needed a batsman with the technique and class of someone like an Ajinkya Rahane, or even veteran Suresh Raina. None of them were even in contention, both had good IPLs. Instead, India went with 3D man Vijay Shankar and Karthik. Jadeja silenced his critics with his performance during the semi-final, but Karthik's selection will be impossible to defend given the stark weaknesses in the middle-order that ultimately played its part in India's elimination.
NOTE: The writer's views need not necessarily reflect the views of Sportskeeda.
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