By Kanishkaa Balachandran/Cricinfo
In an interview to Cricinfo just prior to his departure to South Africa in 2006, Dinesh Karthik said that he had asked VVS Laxman, the South Zone captain, if he could open. “I wanted to face the new ball because batting at No.7, I wasn’t getting enough opportunities,” he said, “and it clicked in the second game against Sri Lanka A”.
Batting in an unaccustomed position, Karthik took time to settle, without troubling the scorers too much in South Zone’s first match at Indore. He failed in the first innings of the second game against Sri Lanka A, scoring just 5, but his fluent 95 in the second compensated for his failures. His confidence reflected in his wicketkeeping as well, taking four catches in Sri Lanka’s second innings.
Prior to that, his 85 off 68 balls in the Challenger Series in front of his home crowd in Chennai was timely, as the tournament was a virtual try-out for India’s tour of South Africa. Particularly impressive were his innovative strokes, scooping the fast bowlers over the wicketkeeper for boundaries in the slog overs, proving his worth as a finisher.
“It was definitely a great experience for me, playing in front of my home crowd and it was a good feeling getting runs there. Some things are very instinctive and sometimes you get these [scoop] shots. It’s not something that I had planned on while at practice.”
More importantly, it has been Karthik’s wicketkeeping which has improved by leaps and bounds, and his acrobatic catch to dismiss Geraint Jones in his last one-day international would have made Adam Gilchrist proud.
“Diving is something that has come really naturally to me,” he continued. “There is always the risk of serious injury but touchwood, it hasn’t happened yet. I have got feedback that my diving technique has been pretty good.”
Pressure is nothing new to Karthik, and he has often been in situations where he was given just a game or two to perform, since the arrival of Dhoni. When asked how he motivated himself, Karthik said that the thrill of playing for India is enough to keep anyone going. His interaction with senior players, like Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh too helped him get through testing situations.
“No matter who your competitors are you have to keep improving your game. The most important aspect is how hard you work at your game and also how you enjoy the game. In the end of the day, you must have fun.”
And how is his relationship with Dhoni? “Fantastic,” he exclaimed. “He is a very nice person and I have often gone to him for help. I wouldn’t describe it as a big-time rivalry. It comes down to who performs more consistently. It’s important that we have a healthy competition. At the same time, we are good buddies.”
Karthik may have played only three one-dayers in his short career, but his comeback is an indication that he is by no means a forgotten man and just a Test match specialist.
(The featured image at the top shows Dinesh Karthik hits the xis which got India the Nidahas trophy)