Dinesh Karthik as much in the mix for T20 World Cup as Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli but only if... | Crickit

Dinesh Karthik as much in the mix for T20 World Cup as Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli but only if...

Apr 16, 2024 04:24 PM IST

I form, fitness and pedigree are the yardstick, then Dinesh Karthik will perhaps be as much in the mix for T20 World Cup as, say, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli.

A day after Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s 28-run loss to Lucknow Super Giants at the start of this month, Dinesh Karthik had pre-committed to three commercial engagements – two shoots (including one that involved an hour’s drive from his hotel) and a bat-signing session. As professional as they come, the 38-year-old fulfilled his obligations with typical nonchalance, his face hardly reflecting the turmoil in his mind.

Royal Challengers Bengaluru's Dinesh Karthik(AFP)
Royal Challengers Bengaluru's Dinesh Karthik(AFP)

Against LSG at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Karthik had been dismissed for four off eight deliveries; it was an effort that rankled because he had prepared assiduously in the lead-up to the IPL for precisely the scenario that confronted him. RCB needed 79 off 34 deliveries when Karthik joined Mahipal Lomror in the middle, but the veteran just couldn’t lay bat on ball, eventually perishing to catch behind the stumps off Naveen-ul-Haq. To say that he wasn’t happy with himself would be a gross understatement.

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Within minutes of returning to the hotel after the defeat, Karthik started exploring avenues for practice the next day – a designated rest day for the team – and found a venue an hour and a half’s drive away. After fulfilling his contractual obligations, he practiced for an hour and a quarter with the late-setting sun as an ally, only leaving the ‘nets’ when he had worked his angst off.

India’s seniormost active international player – he made his India debut in August 2004, long before any of the other six who, like him, have played all 17 seasons of the IPL – might not be too long from calling it quits as a professional cricketer, but the fire is still burning bright, the hunger to deliver for a franchise that has reposed faith in him unsated, self-pride as all-consuming as it has been. It can’t be easy to be labelled a ‘part-time’ cricketer, given that outside of IPLs, he usually dons the experts hat and sits on commentary panels; to his credit, Karthik almost embraces that tag, determined to prove to himself, more than anyone else, that even part-time, he is at least as good as many of the full-timers.

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Inspired by the possibility of an international comeback two years back, Karthik had a roaring 2022 on his return to RCB, smashing 330 runs as a finisher at a strike-rate of 183.33. A call-up to the T20 World Cup squad might have been the culmination of a journey for many, but Karthik wasn’t done yet. He returned to RCB, maybe slightly short on motivation, last season when he only made 140 runs (SR 134.62), but keen as mustard to leave a lasting impression in what most likely will be his 17th and final IPL campaign, Karthik has been in overdrive this year.

His 226 runs in seven games at a staggering strike-rate of 205.45 haven’t come by accident. Even when he was commentating on the India-England home Test series, Karthik was keeping himself physically fit. He opted out of commentary duties for the final Test in Dharamsala, played in the DY Patil T20 tournament in Mumbai, worked on his batting in different parts of the country and spent time with Abhishek Nayar, who is an integral part of the Kolkata Knight Riders set-up, addressing matters pertaining to the mind.

Karthik wasn’t even on the fringes of another international comeback three weeks back, but now, it wouldn’t be in the realms of the fantastic if his hat too is in the ring when the selectors meet in a fortnight to pick the 15 for the T20 World Cup. To many, it might appear a retrograde step – after all, there are plenty of wicketkeeping options though only Rishabh Pant looms as a middle-order/finisher bet – but if form, fitness and pedigree are the yardstick, then Karthik will perhaps be as much in the mix as, say, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli.

On a crazy Monday night at the Chinnaswamy where sixes were smashed for fun and records of all sorts went tumbling, Karthik shone the brightest. Travis Head hammered the fourth fastest IPL hundred, Heinrich Klaasen was magnificent, Faf du Plessis did Faf things, but it was chants of ‘DK DK DK DK’ that rent the Bengaluru air. A hopeless chase of 288 was given new life, artificially so, as it turned out, by the tiny pocket of dynamite who smashed 83 off 35 deliveries. There was a time when the Sunrisers Hyderabad bowlers seemed almost fearful of delivering the ball, which sailed into the stands and clattered off the roof all around the ground. There was an unbelievable reverse sweep-pull too amongst all the carnage, the ultimate affirmation that it’s never too late to master new tricks. Effortlessly.

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