Dinesh Karthik : The second coming
There is never a dull season for cricket in India. Like any other sports in the world, it is full of its own stories, of heroes who never give up, of captains with steely resolve, of batsmen with magical wrists and bowlers with elastic fingers. While men with these attributes are celebrated across the globe, their exploits are part of folklore, human tenacity is best exemplified in stories of comebacks, more so if you are making your sixth come back to the Indian Test side after a hiatus of 8 years. Dinesh Karthik made his Test debut at the age of 19 in 2004. He would go on playing Tests, here and there for the next 6 years, after which he would fall from the national team’s radar.
Not many have mounted third or four string comebacks, let alone when you are in the wrong side of 30’s. Tell that to Dinesh Karthik. “Dear Hard work, Is there anything which you can’t do?”. Here, he had decided to spend his coming years on these very lines. He worked hard, practised day and night and believed. However, all these amount to nothing if we can’t capture the moment when it arrives. But if you have practised a shot 10,000 times, sooner or later it is going to count.
“Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
Would you capture it or just let it slip?”
This is how the famous “Lose Yourself” rap song of Eminem starts. Karthik’s moment came in the recently concluded Nidahas Trophy T20 tri-series in Sri Lanka. When it came, he was ready for it. His 29 off 8 balls, won India the match, earned him widespread praise and appreciation which he never had before. More importantly, it gave him belief. It marked as his second coming.
I remember seeing him for the first time in a Test match in India. India were looking for a wicket-keeper batsman then. He timed the ball beautifully but lacked consistency. He would score in the warmup games and look clueless in the tournament. A brilliant hundred would follow a string of lacklustre performances. It reflected in the field as well. He dropped easy catches and plucked impossible ones. The arrival of Dhoni didn’t help his cause as well.
It was the same story in IPL. The franchises moved him around. There never was any doubt about his ability. He went back to the domestic circuit and kept churning runs for his state side. He made a few comebacks in between to the national side but the performances never warranted any attention.
Somewhere in between he probably realized that in order to make his case for the national side, he had to push himself beyond the comfort zone and he trained specifically for the same. With training and preparation, he has been able to achieve the consistency which he lacked. In the recently concluded edition of IPL, he scored 498 runs at an average of 49.8 and a healthy strike rate of 147.77. He led the KKR side wonderfully even when they were bereft of their star bowlers.
He played his last Test match 8 years back. Apart from Karthik, only three players are playing the International cricket now, who made their Test debut back in 2004. In his first stints, he would let the moments slip. In the second coming, there is resolve, belief and calmness in him. I think, more importantly, Karthik found a way to seize his opportunity. I wonder if he ever listened to “Lose Yourself” and thought that the song describes his story. His story will inspire a million others to never give up, to trust the process and not to worry about the result.
He has been selected to play the one-off Test match series against Afghanistan. This is a very narrow window of opportunity for him to make a stake for the England series. Knowing the new Dinesh Karthik, he will be focussed in the present, to make the most of the present and let the future decide on itself. He has been a part of Indian teams which have won T20 World Cup and Champion’s Trophy tournaments. With the World Cup hanging around and India yet to find a suitable No.4, it is worthwhile to see if he becomes a part of a World Cup-winning side. Until then, all he has to do is “live in the moment”.
“You better lose yourself in the music, the moment. You own it, you better never let it go. You only got one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity happens once in a lifetime.”