The national selection committee had always planned on having two keepers in the one-day squad for South Africa, if it was to be a 16-member squad. At the time of the selection committee meeting in Mohali, just after the India-Australia game, it was already known that Yuvraj Singh would probably miss at least the initial part of the tour to South Africa but his name was kept on in the squad as a precautionary measure.
In the event, what made Dinesh Kaarthick's inclusion, always on the cards as cover for MS Dhoni, given the distance from India and the duration of the tour (though some would see it also as keeping the pressure on the flamboyant Indian keeper) seem so silly was that he was named as the alternative for Yuvraj. Well, this being Indian cricket, need we say more?
Though for most people, Kaarthick's career all but disappeared in the brouhaha over Dhoni when the latter took over the gloves almost exactly a year ago in the longer version of the game too, the 21-year-old from Tamil Nadu refused to see it that way. He just did what he believes he does best, made a pile of runs in every form and level of the domestic game, worked on his keeping and brought himself back into contention.
“It was very tough,” said Kaarthick on Wednesday, on the eve of a game he is unlikely to play. “"Mentally, it had a bearing on me and I had to refocus and I made myself do that.”
Being dropped from the national squad can be a chastening experience, especially for a confidence player, that Kaarthick says he is, but he said he spoke to several seniors --- both in the side and no longer in it --- about the experience to get him through that phase.
“They told me a lot of things about myself I did not realise,” he said. “They told me that while my technique was fantastic, it was important for me to get runs in domestic cricket. I realised it was important to improve, and improve my batting more than my keeping.
“I needed to make runs, and I went back and made runs last season, in the Challenger Series this year as well as in the Duleep Trophy. I am confident in both my batting and my keeping now. I think I can deliver in both aspects. I am happy to be in the scheme of things.”
But is he really? Well, even though at this time, Dhoni mania seems to be going on and on despite a break in the flow of runs, Karthick's presence could lead to a very understated battle for the keeper's slot in times ahead, especially if Dhoni doesn't keep the momentum going.
Kaarthick though, extremely articulate like most metro kids, dismissed any talk of uncomfortable vibes. "We get along really well. We are not kids to be fighting with each other all the time!" he said. "Dhoni is a fantastic batsman. The way he bats is amazing. He can hit the ball out of any ground in the world."
And then he added the clincher. “But the very fact that I am in the one-day squad has given me a lot of impetus. I am giving him a good challenge at the moment, that is how I look at it”.