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Sunny days ahead for Dinesh Karthik

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Dinesh_Karthik_India_CricketOh, when I look back now
That summer seemed to last forever
And if I had the choice
Yeah, I'd always wanna be there
Those were the best days of my life.

On 17th June, 1985, a song that was steeped in nostalgia was released. The combined magic of Bryan Adams’ voice, the music and the lyrics of this song—Summer of 69 —took the world by storm. The song still takes many down memory lane, bringing about strong feelings of nostalgia, that allows people to relive the best days of their lives. However, for some, the best days come much later in their lives.

Coincidentally, Dinesh Karthik was born on 1st June, 1985. The best days never quite arrived in his international career. His 13-year on-and-off career with the Indian cricket team probably had too many stops for the distance it travelled. Yet he never thought of quitting. For cricket was his life and he knew that only he had the ability to make his life better.

So he persisted. He worked hard. He never gave up.

And the best day of his life arrived probably when most players start pondering about their retirement. At 32, Karthik played the shortest yet the most exciting and impactful knock of his international career. The eight deliveries that he faced during the last couple of overs of the grand finale of the Nidahas Trophy against Bangladesh defined the entire transformation he has undergone over the years as a batsman.

Karthik has never looked so secure, calm and composed in such a tense situation. He looked like someone different on that day. The change in his batting approach had been visible on some occasions during the IPL, and sometimes during the short little innings he had played for India since his comeback. But he was yet to produce something so impactful both for India and for himself.

 

Something special was long overdue and he couldn't have chosen a better occasion than this to show his mettle. He plundered 29 runs in 8 deliveries, including a last-ball six to seal the win for India. He was the man who turned things around when it looked like defeat was on the cards. And he did that in quite some style, starting and finishing his innings off with sixes. He won the Trophy for India, a result which looked quite improbable 10 minutes before. Could it have been better than this? I doubt it!

 

His career could have been very different, if it hadn’t been for a guy with long hair from Ranchi. Karthik had only started taking baby steps in international cricket when a storm called MS Dhoni arrived and blew away all his chances of cementing a place in the Indian squad.

It is quite fascinating how time and destiny turn things around. Dhoni’s rise and Karthik’s fall went hand in hand a decade back. Now, when the latter is rising, the former’s abilities are fading away.

Karthik had become an overnight sensation on his ODI debut when he had effected a thunderous stumping to dismiss Michael Vaughn back in 2004 at the iconic Lord's cricket ground. However, once Dhoni arrived, the attention shifted as quickly as the stumping made Karthik famous. The Tamil Nadu batsman’s failure to click with the bat also contributed to the Indian team’s preference towards Dhoni, as the Ranchi man started firing with the bat after just a few games.

Karthik could have complained that his exclusion from the team was probably unfair, considering how few chances with the bat he got. But he never did. Instead, he went back to domestic cricket, worked hard, churned out consistent runs and earned a call up into the national team once again two years later.

He did score a couple of impressive fifties and a maiden Test hundred in Bangladesh this time. When it just started looking like he was making the most of his second opportunity, his form started fading away. The result was another exclusion. It meant he had to start from the beginning once again.

From that time onwards, his career became like a game of snakes and ladders. He kept climbing up the ladder and kept falling down again and again. Multiple comebacks and multiple exclusions — this became his story for the next few years until it took a full stop after the Champions Trophy in 2013.

 

It looked like his time was up. He had gotten so many chances yet he failed to hold on to them every time. All people could remember him for were a few extraordinary and breathtaking catches here and there, his opening stint in England back in 2007, and of course the lightning stumping in his debut ODI.

 

But there was something about this man that the selectors couldn't resist. Despite the numerous chances they had given him, they still wanted to give him more whenever he performed well in domestic Cricket.

And Karthik gave the selectors exactly what they were looking for. Another terrific 2016/17 domestic season saw him scoring 704 runs in Ranji Trophy, at an average of 54.15, 211 runs in Duleep Trophy at 52.75, 607 runs in Vijay Hazare Trophy and 86.71, and 202 runs in Deodhar Trophy at 101.

Moreover, he followed that up with another splendid IPL season, amassing 361 runs at an average of 36.10 and overall strike rate of 139.38 in IPL 2017, both of which were his best numbers of all the seasons since 2008.

Since then, he has been a regular part of the limited overs squad. Although he was still considered a backup option, the innings that he played on Sunday has surely enhanced his reputation and will probably fetch him a permanent place in the squad for now, with the World Cup coming up.

DK has finally witnessed what ‘a best day’ on the field feels like. Now it looks like he has finally discovered himself and is going to come up with more such special performances in the coming time ahead. The future looks quite bright. Sunny days are certainly ahead.

 

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Prasenjit, a techie by profession and Sports writer by passion, hails from the 'City of Joy'-Kolkat...

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