For the prolonged period that Dinesh Karthik was away from the Indian team, it was said that he was unlucky to be playing in the same era as MS Dhoni. One wonders how long we can say that about the talented yet underperforming 28-year-old wicket-keeper batsman from Tamil Nadu. On the basis of some strong domestic performances and some impressive IPL knocks, he has forced his way back into the Indian one-day squad. Of course, his comeback has coincided with the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar, which means he is actually lucky to be in the team as a batsman alone. But, it must be said that he isn’t making great use of the god-sent opportunity.
Karthik raised lots of hopes after his twin centuries in the practice games that preceded the Champions Trophy. However, barring an unbeaten half-century against West Indies, his performance has been highly disappointing. Karthik’s scores in the Champions Trophy were as follows –14 against South Africa, 51* against West Indies, 11* against Pakistan and 6 against England. He got another opportunity in the tri-series in West Indies but failed again, registering scores of 23, 22, 6, 12 and 23. Clearly, he needs to be doing more.
The problem with Karthik is not that he is struggling out in the middle. On the contrary, he looks extremely fluent during his stay at the crease, but always finds a way to get himself out after getting his eye in. This actually has been the story of his international career so far. His statistics reflect the same –an average of 27 in ODIs after 62 matches with only six fifties, and that of 28 in Tests after 23 matches, with one hundred and seven fifties. There have been occasions, where he has been done in by the bowler, like Rangana Herath in the tri-series, but often he has been responsible for his own downfall.
Karthik will get another opportunity to put his career back on track when India tour Zimbabwe in a few days’ time. While he will be under pressure to keep his place in the side, following his recent failures, it is also a great chance for him to seize the moment. Aninjured Dhoni has been rested for the inconsequential tour, which means Karthik will be the wicketkeeper batsman for the entire series. The opponents are also a weak one, which means the task would be slightly easier for Karthik.
It was only because India won in England and West Indies that the team’s weak links like Karthik, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav did not come under the scanner. But once India start losing their performances would be judged that much more closely. Hence, it would be imperative for Karthik to strengthen his position in the team before that time arrives, if he wants to extend his international career. He is a gifted batsman no doubt, but many talented guys have fallen by the wayside over the years, and Karthik must guard against the same.
--By A Cricket Analyst