‘I’m studying in the university where Dhoni is the topper’

India wicket-keeper batsman Dinesh Karthik reflects on his last-ball finish at the Nidahas Trophy and believes this is the start of something special.

Dinesh Karthik...“It feels good that suddenly after so many years, there is a lot of attention on me.”   -  K. Pichumani

Dressed in checks, trouser and trendy loafers, Dinesh Karthik entered the Madras Cricket Club premises on Tuesday afternoon. There was a sense of poise in his gait up to the first floor — overlooking the Chepauk stadium — greeting everyone with a “hello, how have you been?” This time, he knew he didn’t have to pad up to prove his worth.

The unbeaten 29 off 8 balls in the Nidahas Trophy T20 final, against Bangladesh at the R. Premadasa stadium, in Colombo on Sunday dramatically improved the wicket-keeper batsman’s resume. Not every cricketer gets to finish a match with a last-ball six.

“It is probably karma of all the good things I have done through my cricketing career. It helped me hit that six; if it had been a four, it would have been a super over but it went two extra millimetres. It feels good that suddenly after so many years, there is a lot of attention on me.

“You want this to be the start of something special,” says the 32-year-old Karthik, who coincidentally had helped India win a Twenty20 game on his debut in Johannesburg in 2006. Chasing 127 against South Africa, he smashed an unbeaten 31 off 28 balls to take the team home.

Good luck charm

There is a bit of Proteas luck this time, too. The Test call-up as a substitute wicket-keeper made him feel needed; thanks to the new rule that came into effect last October, the seasoned stumper stood behind the stumps for the injured Parthiv Patel in the final session of the third Test in Johannesburg.

“It was a massive boost. The fact that they showed interest in me made me happy. My dream is always to play Test cricket. With Wriddhiman Saha doing so well for sometime, I am glad to be back in the fold of things,” adds Karthik, who also dismissed comparisons with the legendary M. S. Dhoni. “When it comes to Dhoni, I am studying in the university where he is the topper. I have started my journey and it has given me a new wind of hope. His journey has been totally different.”

Dinesh Karthik and M. S. Dhoni debuted for India within a year of each other. Photo: AFP


But Dhoni is in the last leg of his illustrious career and India may need Karthik in his absence. “Let things take its own course. If given an opportunity to keep wickets for India again, I will.”

IPL, KKR and captaincy

For now, however, he will enjoy a Dhoni-like designation — of being the wicket-keeper captain — in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR).

“We have a bunch of skilled bowlers and I have a feeling we will be a good fielding unit, too. I want to sit down with the coaches and decide which phase they want me to bat. It’s not about being a No. 3 or a No. 4. It’s more about the situation and the over-number I should walk in,” he reasons.

India stand-in-skipper Rohit Sharma said at the post match conference that Karthik was upset to have not batted at No. 6. But the move set the stage for the whirlwind knock. He labelled Rohit as a “highly-skilled captain.”

“His biggest strength has been that he won three IPLs, immense belief in his ability to lead a team, he is strategically strong. He thoroughly does his homework, looks at batsmen, makes his own ideas and gives the bowlers an opportunity to set the field and execute them,” says Karthik.

Now it remains to be seen how Karthik performs as captain of KKR, which won two titles under Gautam Gambhir. An IPL trophy may actually be a second coming for the cricketer who made his debut as early as 2004.

                                      DK's quick takes

Unconventional shots: Sanjay Bangar keeps talking about using the crease to the maximum and use the ball to the optimum. 

On growing as a cricketer: You need to go out of your state to explore your batting. For example, when I train in Bengaluru, the ball swings in the morning. There is technically no swing in Chennai.

On structure-based batting: I follow a routine with my coach, Apurva Desai. We meet up after every series to have a set of drills, it is like a tune-up.

On Vijay Shankar: He was calm and not at all flustered. I told him that the outfield was fast and he should look for a four and not a six. I feel you hold your position better when looking for a boundary. The boundary he hit off the fourth ball was crucial. He is a good batting all-rounder and a fielder.

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