Karthik keen to cash in on his opportunities

TN batsman looks to fill the No 4 void

Karthik keen to cash in on his opportunities

Dinesh Karthik had shown enough potential to be a long-term wicketkeeper-batsman for India even before MS Dhoni had cut his teeth in international cricket in 2004. The potential, however, did not translate into desired results.

In what has been a chequered career, spanning over 13 years, Karthik has played no more than 23 Tests, 75 ODIs and 10 T20 internationals. Numbers that are a lot less flattering than what his early days in international cricket promised. Nonetheless, the right-hander has remained in the reckoning thanks to his consistent performances in domestic cricket, including the IPL, and the latest of his several comebacks appears to last longer than his earlier stints did.

While in the past he has often been included in the limited-overs squad primarily as a replacement for an injured player, this time he has found his place as a possible answer to India’s search for No 4 batsman. Though Indian team management’s approach to unearthing a worthy No 4 is mired in confusion, Karthik, who is now used as a specialist batsman, may just fit in that role based on the small sample available so far.

In the last two of his three ODI innings, he has come in at four and both times he has remained unbeaten with as many half-centuries. His overall performance at No 4 is also much better than his career record. Where his career average is just under 30, in 14 innings that he has batted at No 4, he averages almost 40. While the 32-year-old’s inclusion did raise eyebrows, he deserves decent run in the middle-order after good displays in three consecutive ODI innings – 50 n.o., 37, 64 n.o.

He may have been brought in with a specific task, but Karthik isn’t too fixated with his batting position and that should augur well for him.

“At this point of time, I don’t want to say I am comfortable with number 4 or 5,” Karthik noted. “From where I come, whatever opportunities given to me by the coach and the captain, I am going to be honest and say I am going to play no matter where it is. I am at that stage where I feel that I can contribute wherever I bat. I keep concentrating on the things I should be doing rather than what will happen if I bat at four or should I be batting at four. I feel I should be taking the energy away from that and focus more on how I am going to bat.”

Karthik comes into the side after, according to team management, Ajinkya Rahane and KL Rahul failed to meet the demands of a middle-order batsman. Kohli feels Rahane and Rahul are essentially openers and will bat only in the top two, at least under his watch.

“This series (against New Zealand) Dinesh Karthik has come in for K L (Rahul)… We have got in Dinesh, who has always played in the middle order, who’s more comfortable and more aware of how to bat in the middle order, so we need to strike that good balance, bring in guys who have the ability,” he had said at the start of the series.

Karthik is a smart cricketer. Having batted in the middle order for most of his international and domestic cricket, he has the mindset, skills and expertise required for that position. He is equally adept at dropping anchor and donning an enforcer’s role. Wednesday’s unbeaten 64 in Pune showcased his competence as India levelled the series against New Zealand. While the task wasn’t too big, it was necessary for India that he held one end firm after Shikhar Dhawan, who described Karthik one of the best middle-order batsmen (in India), fell with victory still some distance away. 



 

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