Can Dinesh Karthik’s Blazing Form Be a Champions Trophy Ticket?

Dinesh Karthik is one of those Indian players who got numerous opportunities to prove their mettle at the international level but could not churn out consistent performances to cement their place in the team.

Karthik was considered to be the best among the young wicketkeeper batsmen known in the domestic circuit a decade ago. And that is one reason why he made his international debut well before the arrival of the storm called MS Dhoni, in an ODI against England at Lord’s in 2004. However, constant wicketkeeping errors and failure to contribute with the bat resulted in his ouster from the team, after only a handful of matches .

And once Dhoni ceased the opportunity, Karthik never got a call-up for the same role again; despite his giant leaps in domestic cricket.

 

Dinesh Karthik’s Domestic Exploits

His domestic exploits with the bat did earn him a call-up to the national side again a couple of years later. However, this time it was only as a specialist batsman.

Even though he churned out some impressive 50’s and a maiden Test Hundred against Bangladesh in an away series in 2007, inconsistency crept up in his batting again.

There were a lot of factors that contributed to it – the constant influx of new players into the team and the constant shuffling of his batting position to accommodate other players are amongst the main reasons.

 

From then onwards, he made sporadic appearances in national colours without any notable performances, and his international run came to a halt after the 2013 Champions Trophy.

However, his recent run of form in domestic cricket means he is again in contention for a place in the squad for Champions Trophy 2017.

704 runs in 10 Ranji Trophy matches at an average of 54.15, 211 runs in three games of the Duleep Trophy at an average of 52.75, 607 runs at an average of 86.71 in 9 Vijay Hazare Trophy matches, and 202 runs in Deodhar Trophy at an average of 101 are testimony to his sublime domestic form this season.

And if these were not enough, 128 runs at an average of 42.67 in the ongoing edition of IPL so far, certainly makes him an attractive pick for the upcoming Champions Trophy in England.

It is always better to have in-form players in the team rather than players just having potential. And Karthik is one of those players who has everything – class, potential and form. Moreover, he has massively transformed his batting over the years; both his strike rate and consistency have improved, making him perfectly suited to the modern limited overs format of the game.

He knows that it is almost impossible to displace Wriddhiman Saha and MS Dhoni from their respective positions in Test and ODI cricket. However, he believes that he has all the necessary skills to be picked as a specialist batsman for India in all formats.

I see myself competing for a batsman’s slot. I keep scoring runs and at the moment the team has six-seven places for batsmen. So I think I can contribute to the team in that way. I have been playing well for the last few seasons and my runs speak for themselves.

“I feel my batting skills are good enough to pick me solely as a batsman,” Karthik had said after he had led Tamil Nadu to their fifth Vijay Hazare title a couple of months back.

Karthik’s domestic records also speak a different story when compared to his international record as a batsman. He averages only 27.93 with the bat in 71 ODIs whereas his List-A career hovers around the 40’s. The same goes for his Test career with an average of 27.77, whereas his first-class career average is 41.67.

One may argue that he is not fit for the modern limited-overs format as it always requires scoring runs at a brisk rate, and Karthik’s ODI career strike rate has always been in the 70’s. However, if we look at his List A career strike rate, one can see that it has always been in the 90’s spanning 198 matches. Moreover, his recent IPL exploits with the bat have shown that he can always change gears whenever he wants and has got a wide range of shots in his arsenal as well.

Karthik’s wicketkeeping has also improved in leaps and bounds over the years, and the Indian team can always have a back-up wicketkeeping option if he is picked in the squad for the Champions Trophy.

Karthik is in the best phase of his career in terms of batting form and it is time for India to utilise him properly. The way he is racking up runs in the domestic circuit proves that he is hungry for a national call-up and won’t let it go in vain if he gets it.

The selectors should take note of his fine form and change in approach this season; it’s time that they give Karthik his due!

(This opinion piece first appeared in The Quint on April 17,2017)

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