Karthik 2.0: Tougher and determined

Now, as he the travels with the team for the ICC Champions Trophy, picked as a specialist batsman, Dinesh Karthik will be close to turning out in the India colours.

“I dream of playing for India again,” Karthik said earlier this season.   -  R. V. Moorthy

He was bubbly, chirpy and hardly able to hold back his excitement.

It was a full flight from Durban to Cape Town as the Indian team travelled to the picturesque city for the decider of the dramatic 2006-07 Test series.

By now Dinesh Karthik was aware of his place in the eleven for the final Test; M.S. Dhoni was grappling with a fitness issue.

To make things brighter for him, Karthik was seated next to his idol Sachin Tendulkar during the journey. His joy was understandable and there was never a dull moment till the aircraft touched down in Cape Town.

Not visible on his visage were the pressures of the approaching Test, nor the thought that he would be opening the innings against one of the most potent pace attacks in the world.

Although battle-hardened, Karthik has an endearing child-like enthusiasm in him.

This in a nutshell is the essential Karthik for you; a free-spirited man of immense ability, undaunted by challenges.

Coming back to the Cape Town Test, Karthik opening the innings with Wasim Jaffer, stood up to Dale Steyn, Mkhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock and Jacques Kallis for an innings of 63 of much courage.

He batted with the attributes of a proper batsman, with footwork and balance. Karthik got behind the line solidly, was secure in defence and impressive while going on the offensive.

Fast forward to 2017.

Karthik declares he wants to be considered a specialist batsman and not a wicket-keeper batsman alone. It’s the right decision for he adds value to the team by being flexible in the order and can also double up as ‘keeper in the need arises.

He had a mountain of runs to back him this season, both in the Ranji Trophy and then in the Vijay Hazare competition where his form was mind-boggling.

The 31-year-old cricketer had added maturity to his natural ability. His mental preparation ahead of a match and innings were much better.

He was more focussed and getting into a ‘zone’ where he shut out the negative thoughts, preventing them from clouding his judgment.

There have been a few technical things too. Karthik’s bat swing was straighter and he was more balanced in his stance.

While he has always been a telling cutter and puller, Karthik was playing the deliveries strictly on its length. While he would unleash the horizontal bat shots on short-pitched balls, he was playing the fuller deliveries a lot straighter.

The trick was to tighten his game without losing his attacking instincts. Karthik has played his strokes forcefully this season, but his shot selection has been impeccable.

All the hard work under Mumbai all-rounder Abhishek Nayar paid off; the focus was on tuning in his mind to the match, the nature of the opposition and the conditions. He was ticking the boxes.

“I dream of playing for India again,” he said earlier this season.

Now, as he the travels with the team for the ICC Champions Trophy, picked as a specialist batsman, Karthik will be close to turning out in the India colours. Karthik 2.0 could be around for a longer time too.

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