He has played 23 Tests and 71 ODIs, but has never really been able to cement his place in the Indian team. With skipper MS Dhoni being around, he stood little chance of donning the big gloves and somewhere the pressure of playing as a ‘specialist batsman’ didn’t get the best out of him. But now that Dhoni has quit Tests, Tamil Nadu wicket keeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik has sensed an opportunity to sneak back into the national team.
The 30-year-old did his chances no harm by playing an innings of immense character against Mumbai on Day Two of the Group B Ranji Trophy match at the BKC on Friday. “I am at a stage where I want to score so many runs that they (the selectors) cannot ignore me. I want to set the bar really high and keep trying my best to achieve that. As a player that’s a big challenge for me and I am going to try and do so well that they find it hard to ignore me at the national level and that’s what I am aiming to do,” said Karthik, who’s 167-run knock has put TN in the driver’s seat.
The mercurial keeper-batsman’s extraordinary effort and his 182-run partnership with Malolan Rangarajan (61) helped TN reach 434 in their first innings. In reply Mumbai ended the day at 45 with Akhil Herwadkar (11) and Shreyas Iyer (12) back in the dressing room. The day though, clearly belonged to Karthik. He deployed the sweep shot to good effect and punished Mumbai’s bowlers on a wicket that is slowing by the day .
If the sweep shot did get him bulk of the runs, it also brought about his downfall eventually. Left-arm spinner Vishal Dabholkar trapped him in front to finish with a five-wicket haul. Karthik has in the past succumbed to the joy of playing his pet shot and has paid the price.
Speaking about his love-hate relationship with the shot, Karthik said: “It is a shot that I like playing and it has been a friend and enemy at times. I have gotten out playing that shot but have also got boundaries. So I think we got a love and hate relationship,” he smiled and added: “Over the years, though, I have mellowed down on the shot. I used to play it a lot more before but these days I don’t play it as much.”
Karthik insisted that he is a batsman first and a wicketkeeper later, but said that he has worked really hard on his keeping. “I have really worked on my keeping and it is coming out really well. I had a couple of good games, but the key is to keep carrying on from here. So as I said I am going to set the bar so high that they (selectors) are going to say that there is no way to stop him,” he said.
Mumbai coach Chandrakant Pandit defended his bowlers but admitted it was more of Karthik batting well rather than Mumbai bowlers not performing as per plans. “Karthik really batted well. But I want to add here that we were also unfortunate that a couple of decisions went against us. Mind you I am not making any excuses here. But I believe my bowlers. So I have express what they have said to me.”