Taking a big stride forward

Taking a big stride forward

Efforts of Karthik, Rohit are bright spots for India

Taking a big stride forward

Just look at these numbers—5, 0, 0, 4, 4, 4. They read more like an Indian postcode than Rohit Sharma’s scores in six successive one-day internationals last year.

The Mumbai batsman, however, had to cool heels for just five matches after that horrible run before being accommodated again in the side. This time as an opener!

Dinesh Karthik wasn’t as lucky though. The right-hander was dropped from the squad after stringing together scores of 14, 10, 9, 0, 0 in Sri Lanka in August 2010 and had to wait for almost three years to make a comeback to the national squad following his stupendous domestic run ; ironically enough, as a specialist middle-order batsman.

With MS Dhoni establishing himself as the first-choice wicket-keeper, Karthik was picked as a specialist opener for the 2007 series in Bangladesh and England after India’s disastrous World Cup campaign in the West Indies. But the Tamil Nadu batsman fizzled out after a promising start. Having earned an opportunity to revive his international career, Karthik has easily slipped into his new role with three impressive knocks in five matches during the course of the ongoing Champions Trophy. The 28-year-old has notched up innings of 106 not out., 146 n.o., and 51 n.o. with the first two coming in warm-up matches against Sri Lanka and Australia in difficult circumstances.

Things can’t be too easy when you are stepping in for someone as big as Yuvraj Singh but Karthik so far has shown great temperament and skill to fit the bill. “I always believe he's someone who can bat really well in the middle order,” said skipper MS Dhoni. “The reason being he's a good runner. He reads the situation pretty well, and he's someone who can look to go on and play a big innings, and that is what is really important in the middle order.”

Of course, Karthik’s past experience at this level will be an added advantage, but he has gone through a hard grind in the last two and a half years. He has worked on his fitness and tweaked his technique a bit which is having a positive effect on his game. “He's technically sound, which means he has all the right talent to get going. And once he gets going, he's someone who keeps himself busy throughout the innings. So, I personally feel he's someone who is really good to have in the side,” Dhoni reasoned.

His presence in the squad also means India always have the luxury of a back-up wicketkeeper and a good one at that. Karthik’s Mumbai Indians’ mate Rohit is finally showing the desperation expected from him. In the 15 matches before the Mohali game, when he donned the opener’s role, he had just one half-century in his favoured middle-order. But since assuming the new responsibility, he has churned out three fifties in five outings and all coming in winning causes. Often accused of not respecting the talent that he has been bestowed with, the 26-year-old is finally showing the resolve required to survive at the highest level.

Of course, it helps to have the full backing of your captain but Rohit knew he had no place in the middle-order. With Ajinkya Rahane failing to make use of the limited opportunities given to him, Dhoni was quick to elevate Rohit to the top of the order.
Encouragingly enough, he has displayed the right amount of restraint and aggression in his new position to forge a successful association with Shikhar Dhawan. “That's the only space (opening), where we all felt that with his talent he can really capitalise and be a good opener,” pointed out Dhoni.

Rohit is also not shying away from pulling the short-pitched stuff that he was supposed to succumb to without a whimper on the bouncy pitches in England. “I think he's someone who cuts and pulls the ball well,” Dhoni noted. “Whenever we play a team that's not from the subcontinent, more often than not they are thinking that let's bowl short to the opener. And if the opener cuts and pulls, they don't really have a back-up plan. He's someone who can do the job well for us, and also the fact that he's someone who is really talented is helping us,” he explained.

These are still early days but Rohit and Karthik have exhibited right attitude in their latest bid to realise the obvious potential.