After eight long years, Testing times are here for DK

Seven seasons after donning the white flannel for the last time, Dinesh Karthik is back in the scheme of things and is all set to stand behind the stumps, when India takes on Afghanistan in a lone test from Thursday

Dinesh Karthik trains ahead of the lone test match against Afghanistan at M. Chinnaswamy stadium from Thursday   -  PTI

The last time Dinesh Karthik featured in a Test match for India, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid were regular members of the side.

That was in January, 2010.

After being dismissed for a duck in the first innings against Bangladesh, Karthik scored 27 in the second innings before being dropped for the next Test. There wasn’t an iota of doubt about his talent, but the Indian team management decided to look beyond the Tamil Nadu cricketer.

His statistical records in the longer format, however, remained envious. In 23 outings, Karthik managed to score 1,000 runs—with a highest score of 129—and was also involved in 51 catches and five stumpings. Even then, Karthik found himself in the middle of nowhere in red-ball cricket.

Cut to June, 2018.

Seven seasons after donning the white flannel for the last time, Karthik is back in the scheme of things and is all set to stand behind the stumps, when India takes on Afghanistan in the lone Test at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium from Thursday. He, however, has come in as a replacement for injured Wriddhiman Saha — the team’s regular stumper since Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s exit from the longer format in 2014.

And the determination was showing on Karthik’s face as he trained hard in the first couple of practice sessions. Sweating it out for hours, Karthik made sure that he had enough time with the gloves, and with the bat.

If Saha’s injury paved his way into the team, Parthiv Patel not exactly being in best of forms too has helped the Tamil Nadu cricketer. Well aware of the equation, even Karthik knows this is a chance he can’t afford to miss.

Despite having a stop-start international career, the 33-year-old has been pretty consistent in the domestic circuit. In the last couple of years, he has hammered three centuries and eight fifties for Tamil Nadu — maintaining an average of 55.04. That is something which has helped Karthik stay on the radar of the national selection committee.

“Since the last time he played cricket, DK has got enough time to sit and think where he fell short, be it mentally or skill-wise. That’s something I have gone through and experienced. When you get some time after being dropped, you can assess yourself,” former India cricketer and Tamil Nadu’s Ranji Trophy coach, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, who has observed Karthik from close quarters, says.

“The good thing is that DK has got opportunity. Most players don’t get the chance to come back and play Test cricket. He has been able to assess himself and that has worked for him. He is more aware now and maturity wise, he is eight years more experienced,” Kanitkar says.

Even as Karthik performed at the domestic level, he was assisted by his old friend, Abhishek Nayar, who helped him efface out ‘self-doubt’. And the result was evident. Karthik was called-up in India’s limited-overs side last year. The seasoned hand delivered. The icing on the cake, however, was kept for late. After steadying the ground, Karthik played a match-winning knock in the final of the Nidhahas Trophy in March and also guided Kolkata Knight Riders to a third-spot finish in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Though Test cricket is a different ball game, it is a fact that for someone as seasoned as Karthik, they are opportunities to prove worth. Over the last couple of years, he has shun the odds, letting his willow do the talking in the limited-overs cricket. Now, with doors opening up again, it is time for DK — as he is popularly referred to — to emulate the same in the longer format.

Much like Afghanistan, this is going to be a Test of memories for the Indian stumper too.