Dinesh Karthik can provide the firepower India's middle order needs in limited overs cricket
It has been almost 14 years since Dinesh Karthik made his debut for India at the iconic Lords in an ODI against England. Since then, he has been in and out of the side, never truly establishing himself, before his career’ biggest moment arrived in Colombo with a last-ball six against Bangladesh to win the Nidahas Trophy for India.
Calm and composed under intense pressure, the 32-year-old wicket-keeper batsman smashed an eight-ball 29 to clinch victory when the match was all but lost with 34 needed from two overs. His cameo, which he himself described as a ‘memory of lifetime’, has resulted in calls to instate Karthik as the wicket-keeper in the limited-overs side in the run-up to the 2019 ICC World Cup.
Those calls may be a little far-fetched since MS Dhoni remains the best wicketkeeper-batsman in white ball cricket. It has been Karthik’s misfortune that his career has coincided with that of Dhoni, who made his debut for India in 2004 as well.
He has lived in the shadow of Dhoni for so long, youngsters like Rishab Pant are being seen as Dhoni’s replacement as and when that time comes. However, with his whirlwind knock in Colombo, Karthik has sent a timely reminder to selectors about his match-winning abilities.
The Tamil Nadu man became the forgotten man of Indian cricket after 2014, before a prolific run in domestic cricket gave Karthik some opportunities for India last year. Even so, he has not been given a consistent run in the side.
Still, the right-handed batsman does what is expected of him time and again. In the absence of regular stars in the Nidahas Cup, Karthik was the experienced member of the side. He played that role to perfection, remaining unbeaten in all five innings.
And it is in this role that Karthik could become a crucial player for India as they prepare the squad for next year’s World Cup. While the possibility of Karthik taking the gloves from Dhoni is remote, he could very well play purely as a batsman capable of hitting the big shots in the death overs.
Dhoni’s impact with the bat is not what it used to be, with the veteran now more comfortable rotating the strike in the middle order. Karthik has it in him to be the number six batsman India are looking for, especially since the likes of Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav have failed to deliver.
He might not replace Dhoni as India wicket-keeper but he is definitely a worthy alternative. And with his finishing abilities, Karthik can fill a huge hgap in India’s lower order.
After remaining on the fringes of Indian cricket for much of his international career, this might just be Karthik’s time.