LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 10: India batsman Dinesh Karthik looks on after being bowled by Sam Curran during day two of the 2nd Specsavers Test Match between England and India at Lord's Cricket Ground on August 10, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Dinesh Karthik: A Tale Of Poor Comebacks

Back in 2004, Dinesh Karthik broke into the Indian team on the back of some fine domestic and U-19 performances. But his initial days were not fruitful and as a result he was replaced by the wonder boy from Ranchi, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Dhoni made the most of his chances and became a prominent name in the Indian side. Karthik however hit the domestic season with intent and performed well for a couple of years. In the year 2007, following India’s shocking exit from the World Cup, the selectors gave Karthik the nod for the Bangladesh and England tours. Karthik didn’t disappoint this time around, getting his maiden Test century against Bangladesh and then becoming the highest run getter in the England series, helping India record it’s first Test series victory against the Brits in 21 years.

Just when everyone thought Karthik was here to stay, he hit a road block. The performances again started depleting and eventually he lost his place from the side. Meanwhile, India entered the inaugural T20 World Cup under a new captain MS Dhoni. Karthik too was part of the side and played a couple of important knocks. Dhoni lead the side to the World Cup summit and he was rewarded with the ODI and test captaincy in 2007 and 2008 respectively. This meant the wicketkeeper-batsman spot in the side was cemented. This made it all the more difficult for Karthik to prove himself.

The stop-start opportunities started to hinder Karthik’s morale. He was not able to force his way into the playing eleven and was often incorporated on the backdrop of injuries to other players. Also, Karthik didn’t make the most of his limited opportunities. In the 2007-08 tour down under, Karthik was part of the ODI and T20 side, but played only one T20 scoring just eight runs. This was followed by a poor test series against Sri Lanka.
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In 2009, he again hit the domestic grounds and faired well, but he couldn’t make the cut to the national side. Meanwhile, India was going through the transition period. With the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman retiring, there were enough places up for grabs. But the young bunch of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane were all on course to fill these big voids. All these players were scoring consistently, meaning Karthik had to stick to domestic season again.

Come 2013, Karthik made a comeback to the Indian ODI side. His back to back tons in the warm up ties before the ICC Champions Trophy meant Dhoni was happy to play him in all games of the tournament. But Karthik again couldn’t capitalise and had a below par tournament. However, in the IPL 2013, he amassed 510 runs which was instrumental in Mumbai Indians lifting the trophy.

December 2014 saw the shocking retirement of MS Dhoni from test cricket but Karthik lost the wicket-keeper spot to Wriddhiman Saha. In 2016, Karthik was appointed the captain of the Albert Tuti Patriots team in the newly formed Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL). He did exceedingly well with bat and his team eventually won the inaugural season.

In the 2018 Nidhas trophy final in Sri lanka, India were in a tight spot needing 34 from the final two overs. Karthik walked in and smashed 29 from just eight balls, including a six off the last ball of the match. Karthik garnered all the accolades that was long time due. That performance has by far been the best moment that Karthik has given to the cricket fans in India.

Also, Karthik was appointed as the captain of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) for the 2018 IPL season. Many doubted this decision as KKR had formed a below par team during the auctions. But Karthik led his team from the front, reaching the knock out stages before losing to the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
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In the ongoing series against England, Karthik was selected as the primary wicket-keeper. But with scores of 0, 20, 1 and 0, he was replaced by the young Rishanb Pant in the third test.  Pant had a better outing in the third test and looks set to keep his place in the fourth test at Southampton. The question marks are again pointing towards Karthik. His fellow statesman Murali Vijay had already been axed following poor performances. With young guns like Pant, Ishan Kishan, Shreyas Iyer, Prithwi Shaw, etc. all waiting in the line, Karthik’s chances seem slim.

It has always been a tale of mediocre comebacks for Karthik. He has the talent but has often not delivered when it mattered. He has nobody else than himself to blame. And now he has very little time to make amends or else he’ll soon fall under the bunch of “talents that got wasted”.

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