Last Friday evening, Dinesh Karthik was asked if he was happy with his dismissal for 91 in the first innings of the Oval Test.
What would come next? "Dinesh, are you delighted with the fact that you’ve missed your century by just nine?” The query would have stumped anyone but Karthik, an unusually composed young man who has been tipped as a future India captain — was unfazed.
Karthik has been batting without batting an eyelid at the top of the order — since his elevation in Cape Town last year, has proved sceptics wrong by firmly establishing himself as an opener.
The move was fraught with danger: Was it right to go to England with just one specialist opener? And what if MS Dhoni could not keep wickets, due to injury or loss of form? Would Karthik also keep wickets then?
Karthik admitted before the series began that it would be a tall order, but fortunately, that contingency did not arrive, even though Dhoni was far from impressive when collecting the wobbling ball.
At the top, though, Karthik has been very impressive. Including Cape Town, he has piled up 571 runs at 57.1 (all but one innings were as an opener), and has also got a century and four fifties at the top.
When he landed in England, he was asked about his relative inexperience of opening and facing the swinging ball. The questioner, an Englishman, could not hide his grin after Karthik answered — this one seemed ripe for the slaughter.
That hasn’t quite happened — this lamb can bite. Karthik’s scores in six innings here have been 5, 60, 77, 22, 91 and 8. He has been flashy, played and missed outside off, has had a bit of luck — but he has also driven with authority, kept his head, alternately grafted and attacked. The aggregate of all that has been 263 invaluable runs.
Karthik and Jaffer’s partnerships here have been 18, 38, 147, 47, 62 and 10 and interestingly, Karthik, by luck or skill, has managed to outscore his more established partner. Jaffer has made 185 in six innings here.
Even before, including the tours of South Africa and Bangladesh, Karthik has been setting the pace at the top. Clearly, the specialist has been put into the shade by the novice.
Karthik himself finds it a bit mind-boggling. On Friday, asked if he had been told at Cape Town that he would cross 50 in each of the next six Tests, would he have believed that, he said he wouldn’t have. “But now to be in the position I am, I’m very happy!"