Dinesh Karthik (C) dives for the ball during a training session on the eve of the first day of the third Test against South Africa on January 23, 2018 in Johannesburg. / AFP PHOTO / CHRISTIAAN KOTZE (Photo credit should read CHRISTIAAN KOTZE/AFP/Getty Images)

Dinesh Karthik’s Comeback Cap Gets A New Feather

14 years. 23 Tests. Across Five Different Stints. It has been 14 years since a young and athletic Dinesh Karthik eye-catchingly stumped former England captain Michael Vaughan in India Blue. His career though hasn’t taken off like he took off that day at Lord’s. A career spent on the sidelines overseeing the rise of MS Dhoni, Karthik in these 14 long years has only played a cumulative total of 122 international matches.

The Tamil Nadu wicketkeeper batsman though has been on the comeback trail for over a year now and now finds himself in line for a Test match return against Afghanistan later this month after regular Test wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha was ruled out due to injury.

His Test Career So Far

 

Stint Number One

Matches: 10, Runs: 245, Average: 18.85, Fifties: 1, Highest Score: 93

Karthik’s first stint as India’s Test wicketkeeper batsman was massively underwhelming to say the least, with a paltry return of just 245 runs in 13 innings. His debut saw him get 14 runs in the two innings, in a series which India had already lost to Australia. It was in seventh Test against Pakistan in Kolkata, when he hit his maiden fifty, a 140-ball 93, which helped India to a win.

In the meantime, Dhoni was already cementing his position in the ODI side with some whirlwind performances which ultimately led to him replacing Karthik in the Test side. He would not play in India Whites for the next 22 months.

 

Stint Number Two

 

Matches: 9, Runs: 686, Average: 42.88, Fifties: 6, Hundreds: 1, Highest Score: 129

In January 2007, he replaced Dhoni, who had a bruised finger, and made the most of the opportunity. He scored 63 in a 153-run opening stand with Wasim Jaffer in the first innings, and 38* with the lower order that shored up India’s total in the second after a batting collapse.

This performance was enough to give Karthik a role as a specialist batsman and a reserve wicketkeeper and was promoted to the opening slot. That led to him notching up his maiden Test hundred against Bangladesh, where he scored 129 and a series aggregate of 207 runs at an average of 69.

His best Test series performance yet came in India’s historic series win in England where Karthik ended up as India’s highest run-getter in the series. Scores of 5 and 60 at Lord’s, 77 and 22 at Trent Bridge and 91 and 8 at The Oval were instrumental in India’s 1-0 win in the three-match series.
Embed from Getty Images
A series aggregate of 263 runs at an average of 43.83, Karthik finally announced his arrival in Test cricket. His time at the top was short-lived as he was dropped after a sub-standard show in the home series against Pakistan where he scored only a 115 runs at an average of 19.17.

 

Stint Number Three

 

Matches: 2, Runs: 36, Average: 9, Highest Score: 20

When MS Dhoni decided to sit out of the three-match series against Sri Lanka in July 2008, Karthik was called up to take his place. The 33-year old had an absolute horrid time against Sri Lanka’s spin twins, Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis. With only 36 runs in the series, Karthik made next to no impact and it surprised no one when he was dropped for the Third Test for Parthiv Patel and subsequently from the Test team.

 

Stint Number Four

 

Matches: 1, Runs: 6, Average: 6, Highest Score:6

In Napier for the First Test against New Zealand in March 2009, Dhoni had to sit out with a back spasm. Karthik was the replacement and had a forgettable time in the middle when he made just 6 off 31 balls, a match in which India played catch up throughout. Dhoni, now fit, came back to replace Karthik for the second Test.

 

Stint Number Five

 

Matches: 1, Runs: 27, Average: 13.50, Highest Score: 27

Against Bangladesh in Chittagong in January 2010, Dhoni had to sit out again with a back spasm and it was another opportunity for Karthik to impress. An opportunity he again failed to grasp. Dismissed for a duck in the first innings, Karthik didn’t have much time in the second essay as India pushed for a declaration, he made 27 off 42 balls. As expected, Dhoni was fit for the next Test and replaced Karthik.
Embed from Getty Images
Little did we know then that this would be his last Test for eight long years as he fell behind Saha, Patel and Naman Ojha after Dhoni’s Test retirement in the pecking order.

 

His Test Match Numbers So Far

Matches: 23, Runs: 1000, Average: 27.78, Fifties: 7, Hundreds: 1, Highest Score: 129 vs Bangladesh, Dhaka, Strike Rate: 50.

 

Brilliant Domestic Performances

Dinesh Karthik is one of the most consistent performers in the Ranji Trophy arena and has been a heavy scorer in the last eight seasons for Tamil Nadu. In this period, the southpaw has played in 64 Ranji Trophy Matches, scoring 3750 runs at an average of 46.88 with 13 fifties and 13 hundreds. One of Tamil Nadu’s star players, Karthik has constantly produced big performances and been a stalwart for the team.

In the Vijay Hazare Trophy, India’s premier domestic 50-over competition, Karthik has played in 38 matches in the last eight seasons and scored 2009 runs at an average of 62.78 with six hundreds and eleven fifties at a strike rate of 100.60. Such amazing numbers and consistent performances in the domestic circuit, earned him a call for the 2017 limited overs tour of the West Indies, handing him his latest chance.

 

His Latest Comeback So Far

Selected for the 2017 West Indies tour, Karthik has taken this chance with both hands. He has played in seven ODIs and scored 183 runs at an average of 61 including two fifties. Though his strike rate has been low at 69.85, he has been doing justice to whatever role he has been given in the team.
Embed from Getty Images
His T20 performances are a breath of fresh air for the team. With his heroics in the Nidahas Trophy where he scored 29 off eight balls to win the game still fresh, his contributions have been crucial. Since his return, Karthik has played in ten T20Is, scoring 169 runs at an average of 84.50 with a strike rate of 183.70. In his new found role as captain of IPL franchise Kolkata Knight Riders, Karthik made the most runs for his side. In 16 games, he scored 498 runs at an average of 49.80 at a strike rate of 147.77. He has made the most of his chances.

 

With Saha injured and no date set for his return, Karthik now makes his Test comeback, eight years since he played his last one. With consistent performances in his limited overs formats, Karthik has proven that he can be depended upon. A strong performance against Afghanistan would boost his chances to start ahead of Saha for the forthcoming five-Test match series in England. A career which has been majorly spent in watching MS Dhoni dominate World Cricket, Karthik has had to wait long for chances. Now he gets a chance after 83 Tests, the longest gap between Tests amongst Indian players. This is another feather in Dinesh Karthik’s comeback cap.

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images

LEAVE A REPLY

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.