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Dinesh Karthik: India's new finisher

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Dinesh_Karthik_India_Cricket“There's no doubt that he should be a part of this team. When you haven't played so much cricket [recently], you take a bit of time to get back into the groove, and tonight was an MS classic.”

Virat Kohli's delight and joy after beating Australia in the ODI series was evident. He lavished praise on MS Dhoni for his calmness and composure in the tough run-chase at Adelaide. Replace “MS” with “DK” and every single line he uttered would still hold true.

Dinesh Karthik's place in the side has been questioned several times over the past few months. Like Dhoni, he hasn't played much cricket of late, having missed out on the Test squad. He has taken time to get back into groove but once he did, he is showing he can own that finisher role in India's ODI line-up.

India were 0-1 down in the series and needed a massive boost at Adelaide. They appeared behind the eight ball when Dhoni settled in at a leisurely pace and took his time. He eventually sealed the game with a six to hog the limelight. But what's gone missing in the fervour surrounding Dhoni is the role Karthik played.

He came in with India at 242/4, having lost centurion Virat Kohli in the death overs. Dhoni hasn't been finishing games of late and his striking prowess is evidently on the wane. Karthik, unperturbed and composed, walked in with characteristic hustle and swagger and slammed 25 in 14 balls to ease the pressure on Dhoni.

In an ODI, 25 is no big score. It's one-fourth of a hundred and most people aren't even credited for such knocks. But Karthik deserved it here because that's his role in this new Indian ODI side. With MS Dhoni a possible no.4 at the World Cup after his Melbourne heroics, Karthik might be the assigned man to finish games and he is not averse to the role.

 

"I've practiced it [finishing games], worked on it and it's a skill I think is very important. It's a skill where you need to have a cool head. A lot of experience helps. This is probably one of the hardest skills in the game. To finish a match and be on the winning side is something that is great to be a part of,” Karthik said during the Australian series.

 

Like Dhoni, Karthik has often been criticised for his strike rate. But since his Nidahas heroics, things have changed. Karthik has shown inexplicable calm and resolve down the order in run-chases. He seems to have mastered the art of getting in and going for all from the word go.

At Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2018 IPL, Karthik was their go-to man in a side that had Andre Russell to finish games. Karthik was striking the ball brilliantly and, more importantly, he wasn't bogged down even when not getting boundaries. With Dhoni at Adelaide, he scored just two fours in his 14-ball 25. He was quick to run and converted those ones into twos, often an underrated skill at the death.

“I run a lot. I run twos and threes and was pushing him [Dhoni]. So it was that much more harder for him. I think next we play together, he'll prefer somebody else there who can hit a boundary or two. It was good, batting with him after a long time, it felt good,” Karthik said after the Adelaide game.

Batting with Dhoni definitely has its pluses. He has learnt the art of maintaining a cool head in run chases from Dhoni. India have struggled to use Karthik in the right capacity in the past. He has been moved around the batting line-up and was considered a potential no.4 option until a few series ago. He was also played at 5 or as an opener here and there, but they finally seem to have nailed it down.

“The team management has told me this is the role for me right now. And they want me to do the best I can. They are backing me completely. They have told me that this is where I'm going to bat and this is what they expect out of me and I'm trying to achieve that,” Karthik said.

Clarity in role is important in big tournaments. You want your batsmen coming out knowing exactly what they are expected to do and Karthik, for once, seems to know what is asked of him. He is pretty relaxed about the same and it is showing in his results. He has taken up the role of 'cool head’ in run-chases from Dhoni, no small-sized boots to fill, and has undergone a riveting transformation.



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