In a sport, an unexpected injury most of the times comes as a blessing in disguise; either for a team or a particular player. This time around, in the Indian team, Manish Pandey’s shoulder injury, that ruled him out of the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy 2017, opened doors for Dinesh Karthik to make his way once again into the Indian limited-overs team. Karthik, who has not appeared in the blue jersey in the last three years, never gave up and continued to perform in the domestic circuit in order to earn a national recall. There is a saying, “hard work always pays off.” However, along with the hard work, the ‘luck factor’ plays an important role; Karthik, more than any other player, understands it the best. Despite his consistent performances for Tamil Nadu, he had only managed to be picked among the five stand-by players for the Champions Trophy.
Top-order batsman Manish Pandey’s injury in a way has given India as an advantage because Karthik’s inclusion has given the team a player who can bat anywhere from No. 1 to No 7. The likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh, have a certain spot fixed in the team and that will remain throughout the tournament. It is safe to say that they cannot play more than one role effectively. In the case of an injury or a need to change the line-up, Karthik will be flexible and would fit perfectly in any required position. Although he has opened for India 17 times since his debut in 2004, he will mostly be used to strengthen the batting.
Considering, Kohli, Dhoni and Yuvraj usually stick to orthodox shots. Even when there is no doubt how capable these batsmen are, in the generation of reverse sweeps, scoop shots and switch hits, the sense of innovation is missing in the Indian team. The features such as batting technique and smart placements define a player; however, at times, unorthodoxy is necessary to trick the bowler. Those criteria will be fulfilled by Karthik and IPL 2017 witnessed it on several occasions. Along with superb skills, Karthik has shown the ability to pull off tricky shots just when the bowler has least expected. A combination of textbook batsmen and an innovative batsman will always give an edge to the particular team.
While Kohli, Rohit, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma have struggled to play to their original potential in the last couple of months, Karthik, on the other hand, has been in a great touch with the bat. His form at the domestic tournaments is one of the major reasons why he has earned a place in the Indian team for the Champions Trophy. In the Ranji trophy 2016-17, he was the third highest run-scorer with 704 runs in 10 matches for Tamil Nadu behind his captain, Abhinav Mukund and Kaushik Gandhi. Tamil Nadu lost to Mumbai in the semi-final. Nevertheless, he owned the 50-over format’s Vijay Hazare and Deodhar Trophies, both won by Tamil Nadu.
He scored 607 runs in nine games in Vijay Hazare at an incredible average of 86.71. That included two centuries and four fifties; no batsman smashed as many boundaries as Karthik. He hit the ball for a boundary for a total of 81 times. In Deodhar Trophy he once again retained the same momentum. He piled up 247 runs in three matches and yet again averaged 80-plus.
His form from Tamil Nadu’s double title will be vital for Team India in the Champions Trophy in England. More importantly, Karthik was a part of the Indian squad in the 2013 edition, which India had won. He has played sufficient amount of ODIs on the English soils. While it would have been Manish’s first limited-overs appearance in England, Karthik already has an experience of 12 ODIs there. Even though he has been out of the team for three long years, his experience will come into account at some point of the time.
When the 15-man Indian squad was picked for the Champions Trophy, there were backup players for every role, except a wicketkeeper. Kedar Jadhav is a part-time wicketkeeper, he was the only option in the team, if Dhoni by any chance suffered an injury during the important tournament. Karthik’s addition has also solved that problem. His wicketkeeping skills put him far from being just a part-timer. Dhoni is inarguably is the best-ever wicketkeeper and the fact that Karthik has more dismissals than Dhoni in the Indian Premier League has to highlight him as a credible full-time wicketkeeper. His batting abilities come as an added advantage for Team India.
Just before Karthik would have become a forgotten player like Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel, he has received a golden opportunity in the form of the Champions Trophy to revive his national career. It will be interesting to watch how Kohli will make use of his experience in the squad!