‘I am a student in the university where Dhoni is a topper’: Dinesh Karthik gets candid

Probably it’s karma for all the good things that i have done through the years, said Karthik, reflecting on the last-ball six to win the match for India.
‘I am a student in the university where Dhoni is a topper’: Dinesh Karthik gets candid
‘I am a student in the university where Dhoni is a topper’: Dinesh Karthik gets candid
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It’s been fourteen years since Dinesh Karthik made his international debut against England at cricket’s most historic venue, the Lord’s cricket ground. Since then, Karthik’s career has been quite uneventful. He’s been a top domestic performer and always in the running for an international call-up. The criticism of him has been his lacklustre performances at the highest level. All that changed on Sunday, March 18. Karthik was sent out to the middle with his team requiring an improbable thirty-four runs to win of the final two overs. Staring down the barrel, Dinesh Karthik faced eight balls that would change his life. He scored twenty-nine of the thirty-four runs the team required and this included a six of the final ball of the game to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat much to the elation of Indian fans and the dismay of their Bangladeshi counterparts.

On Tuesday, the 32-year-old Karthik, sat down for a group interview with us and other members of the media to speak in detail about his career, his resurgence and plans for the future. 

You’ve scored 20,000 domestic runs over 14 years, but eight balls have changed your life. What was your reaction after the match?

Probably it’s karma for all the good things that i have done through the years. If i had hit a four and taken it to a super-over, it would have been different, but those two meters that carried the ball over the rope won us the game and its hard for me to put into words about what made that happen. I’m just happy to be playing the sport and after so many years, it feels good to have a lot of attention on me, which is very different to what it is when you’re playing domestic cricket, it’s a hard grind out there. But at the same time, you want it to be the start of something special and you don’t want to get carried away. It needs to be a place from where I can go on and do such things consistently.

You’ve been a part of the squad, but not playing regularly. How hard is it to make all your chances count?

It’s a hard thing especially while touring. The South African series was so hectic. We used to play a match, the next day was travel, then some days practice, while some days the bowlers would be too tired, and there was a match again the next day. There was literally two days between every game, so, there was not much time for us to practice. It is important that whenever you do get opportunities to practice, just get in some batting and be in a place where you feel if you get a chance to play, you can do well. It’s important to be in that zone and be as practically ready as possible. 

Tell us about your association with Abhishek Nayar.

He has been the most important factor in the last couple of years. We’ve had a lot of conversations, we’ve spent a lot of time together, he’s made me do a lot things that i’m not comfortable doing. He’s helped me prepare for games. He’s made me think better in terms of strategy and he’s taking me down a path that I feel has helped me over the last two-and-a-half years. It’s very hard for me to put into words how indebted I am to him because there is no reason for him to help me. He’s a very good friend and I’ve known him for a really long time. I just felt that he has worked so hard as a cricketer but has not achieved everything he desired and he also knows the right way to work hard. He made sure I don’t make the same mistakes he did in his career. He was trying constantly to listen to me and tell me how I should be thinking and moving forward. He’s been the river and I’ve been the boat. I’ve just gone along with the path he has given me.

I had noticed that you were moving around in your crease a fair bit during the innings. Was this pre-planned or just improvised?

It is one of the things that Sanjay Bangar has been speaking about. It is one of the things that I have practiced with Abhishek (Nayar) as well.

After this performance, a lot of comparisons are being made with Dhoni. Are you ready to embrace the role of a finisher?

When it comes to Dhoni, I’m just studying in the university in which he’s a topper, so, let’s not even go there.  I just feel it’s unfair for me to be compared to Dhoni. Let’s just say that I’ve started my journey, it’s given me a new wind of hope and with time, let’s see how it goes. One of the things I’m skeptical about with the media is that they start comparing. Our journeys have been completely different and I’m very happy where I am.

How much of a boost was the call-up to the test squad?

That was massive. The fact that they showed interest in me made me so happy. My dream has always been to play test cricket and Saha doing so well for some time, I’m just happy to be back in the scheme of things and I know if i get an opportunity, I will do the best I can. The most important thing especially in domestic cricket is to enjoy each day there, be nice to people around you and never get frustrated.

You said that you were technically better than Dhoni, but mentally he was far ahead of you and you pride yourself on being a batsman in a squad that had Dhoni as a keeper. So, now do you feel you have the mental strength to be a finisher?

I’ve always enjoyed playing as batsman. Fielding has always come naturally to me and I’ve always enjoyed it. While keeping, you’re just standing in one place and I’ve done it so many times so I’ve enjoyed fielding and that’s why I enjoy playing as a batsman. Now, the role that has been given to me in the past was batting at number six and number seven where I’ve finished a few innings batting first. Now, I’ve finished a couple of games batting second too, so it feels good. The most important thing for a player is that, if you’ve done it once, you want to do it again and then do it consistently. That is what I want to be focusing on. I think in the fifty over format, slightly up the order is what they are looking at with me and if given an opportunity, I’ll do the best that I can. The mental strength aspect is the biggest role that Abhishek Nayar has played in working with me. He’s always said that technically I’ve been ok. But, mentally is where his big role comes in and I think I’ve just totally trusted his opinion and views on whatever he says and I’ve been following it.

Much like Shikhar Dhawan, you look to play all formats in the same way. Was that a conscious effort to not complicate things and just play the same way?

One thing common with me and Shikhar Dhawan is that we play a lot of orthodox cricketing strokes. We look to play the ball along the ground and while lofting the ball, it’s more with a vertical bat. It’s only the tempo that you need to raise and reduce according to the situation and format of the game. If it’s test cricket, you can take your time but, if it’s one day or T20, you need to accordingly play your shots.

What was your conversation with Vijay Shankar when he was struggling at the other end?

The important thing is that he’s very calm. The only thing I told him was that the outfield looks fast so, look to hit a boundary and not a six. My only thinking behind that was, if you’re looking to hit a four, you hold your position better. If you try to hit a six, sometimes your head might go up or you look to hit the ball too hard but if you’re looking at a boundary in the gap, you might set yourself with a good base and just time the ball better. He was trying to do that but every cricketer goes through same days where things just don’t connect and he was unlucky and it was the first time he was batting for India.

What do you think of Rohit Sharma as a captain?

I think his biggest strength as a captain is that he’s won the IPL three times. He has immense belief in his ability to lead a team. He’s strategically very strong. He’s someone who does his homework before a game. He looks at batsman, sees what he needs to do. While giving  bowlers an opportunity to set their field, he gives some ideas and tells them to execute. I think he’s a very thorough captain. He’s somebody who is highly skilled in terms of strategy.

Now that you’ve made an impression in Sri Lanka, how important is the IPL, and how do you fancy your team’s chances in the tournament?

The IPL is extremely important, I think it’s a fabulous tournament for all of us and Indian cricket is where it is today because of the IPL because we have rubbed shoulders with the best and it has propelled our cricket to being one of the best in all three formats of the game. On a personal note, extremely important tournament for me.

I think we have a very good bowling attack. I have a feeling we’ll be a really good fielding unit as well. In terms of batting, we have a lot of experience. Chris Lynn, Andre Russell, Robin Uthappa. So I would like to sit down with the coaches and decide in which phase they require me to be batting.

CSK and Rajasthan Royals are back in the tournament now, do you feel it’ll be more competitive since they have been consistent till now?

Definitely, I feel CSK and Rajasthan bring a totally different dynamic to the game and I’m sure it’s going to be a fabulous tournament.

Tamil Nadu have had some success in the shorter format of domestic cricket but not so much in Ranji Trophy. What is required to take the team to the next level in the longer format?

Ranji Trophy is won a lot because of the fast bowlers. All the seasons that we have done well, our fast bowlers have done phenomenally. It is directly proportional. The better the fast bowlers do for us, the better our chances of doing well. This year the fast bowling unit didn’t do as well as they could have. We need to make sure we identify the right fast bowlers and make sure we take care of them. Workload management is very important.

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