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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

ICC World Cup 2019: MS Dhoni’s ‘first-aid kit’ Dinesh Karthik hopes for No 4 role

ICC World Cup 2019: Cricket, he said, has given him a lot but always kept something away; for instance, his first World Cup in 2007 was a disaster.

cricket Updated: Apr 17, 2019 09:31 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
File image of Dinesh Karthik
File image of Dinesh Karthik(Getty Images)

What does Dinesh Karthik think his role will be in the World Cup? “That of a small first-aid kit,” said the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) captain around 24 hours after it became public that he has been preferred over Rishabh Pant as MS Dhoni’s back-up.

“In this World Cup when it comes to MS Dhoni, I am like that small first-aid kit that goes along with him; you know that ‘Band-Aid’ for that small injury,” said Karthik, 33, speaking to a group of journalists on Tuesday.

Then, Karthik leaned forward slightly and said: “But I also know that I could have an opportunity to bat at No 4 and be the finisher. And post the IPL (Indian Premier League), I would be preparing every day believing that it could happen. I know I can play that role because I have done that before.”

ALSO READ: Former India skipper not happy with Dinesh Karthik’s selection over Rishabh Pant

For most of the conversation, Karthik’s hands were clasped and over the table. When he spoke about his conviction of being able to deliver in the World Cup, those hands thumped the table twice. Like with everything else about Karthik it wasn’t loud but it wasn’t something you would miss either.

It was when he was called into the team in 2017 — one of the many comebacks that stretch back to 2006 in South Africa — that Karthik said he thought a World Cup berth could be his. “That is when I believed if I do something special, I could be part of this amazing team.”

He got to know about the selection at lunch on Monday with wife Dipika Pallikal-Karthik and KKR CEO Venky Mysore. “My father-in-law called Dipika, that is how I first got to know. Then my parents called,” said Karthik.

According to Karthik, it was his resilience — “my belief over a period of time that I could come back into the India team,” he said — that got him in the 15. Not an easy to do in a nation that, according to Karthik, is obsessed with novelty; somebody new, somebody young is always the flavour of the season.

Cricket, he said, has given him a lot but always kept something away; for instance, his first World Cup in 2007 was a disaster. And being someone driven to do well, he kept chasing whatever he felt he wasn’t getting. That explains the endless reboots: opening batsman, wicket-keeper batsman, finisher.

ALSO READ: Khaleel Ahmed, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Avesh Khan to be India’s net bowlers in World Cup

“Maybe I was thrown in a little early. Every cricketer who has come young has gone through this journey,” said Karthik trying to reason aloud why an international career that began on September 5, 2004 hasn’t stretched beyond 91 ODIs, 26 Tests and 32 T20Is.

“Fact is I think the last four-five years have been of importance. That is when I learnt the sport and have been ready to play the sport,” he said. It isn’t a coincidence that it was around then that Karthik came in regular contact with Abhishek Nayar, the KKR academy head coach.

To Nayar, Karthik attributed his skills as a white-ball finisher, be it for KKR or India — no reference to last year’s Nidahas Trophy is complete without reference to that eight-ball 29 he hit in the final.

“He made me believe that it is a skill I could do well if I practised in a certain way and learned a few shots. That is something we have worked on in the last two-three years. We didn’t plan that I would be a finisher; we practised thinking we should be successful when we come across such a situation. We planned overall to be a player who could consistently deliver when it was required,” said Karthik.

Pant seemed like the elephant in the room till Karthik decided to deal with it. “It is not in my jurisdiction to think about who has missed. This is an opportunity for me to do well and I am going to do well. When it comes to Pant, I know he is a special player. I think he is going to play for India for a long, long time. He, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw they are special players.

“And I know I will be sharing the journey, touchwood, with Pant well post the World Cup and I will enjoy that journey. We have already played together and I enjoy spending time with him. I don’t see why like how Dhoni and I played, Pant and I can’t play together. I know we will be playing together, touchwood.”

One person Karthik is looking forward to playing with, or touring with, in England is Vijay Shankar. “First thing: there is someone I can speak Tamil to. Second, irrespective of what mood he is in, I can do for dinner with him have my idli, dosa. We also play for the same club and I have seen him grow as a cricketer and I am so happy for him. Three months ago he was a long shot away from being in the squad but the opportunities he has taken shows his character,” said Karthik.

Asked if KKR’s mid-season slump took some sheen off being chosen for the World Cup, Karthik said: “I would like to keep the feelings separate. The World Cup is a special occasion. I am really lucky, really grateful. Given the team we have, if we play to our potential I am sure we can do something special.

“When it comes to KKR, ah, interesting times. That is a positive way of looking at it: to say it is interesting but we have lost three in a row, so there is pressure. I am not going to run away from it. As a captain I have to stand up to it and deliver when it matters.”

First Published: Apr 17, 2019 09:28 IST

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