It was during the 2014 Asian Games when Dinesh Karthik was accompanying his would-be wife, star squash player Dipika Pallikal, to Incheon in South Korea. Karthik had recently suffered mental trauma after his divorce from his first wife, childhood friend Nikita Vanjara, in 2012. He had been staying low and out of the public eye. Even at Incheon, he avoided the limelight. Having been engaged to Dipika in November 2013, Karthik was determined to restart his life all over again.
His performance for Team India during the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy was a testimony to his grit. At a time when Mahendra Singh Dhoni was leading the national team and a place for another wicket-keeper batsman was unthinkable, Karthik was fighting against all odds to impress selectors with his batting skills.
Karthik married Pallikal in August 2015. And Karthik saw many ups and downs in the coming years. From being the top young performer, making it to the big stage in 2004, Karthik later found himself amongst the retired cricketers doing commentary in major tournaments. During the World Test Championship final against New Zealand, and later against England in the five-Test series, Karthik’s commentary skills were lauded by one-and-all as ‘refreshing’.
During this time, Karthik was famous for documenting his journey on social media platforms. On one such post, Indian captain Rohit Sharma predicted his recall by writing, “You still have some cricket left. FYI’. Karthik replied to the post by saying, ‘don’t ever doubt that Sham’.
It was taken as a goodwill gesture rather than a serious comment as Karthik last played for the Men in Blue during that heart-breaking defeat to New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup. His last appearance in a T20 international came in February 2019 vs Australia at Bengaluru. No one then actually thought about his comeback to the national squad as he looked comfortable in his new role.
So, when the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) picked Karthik in the squad for the upcoming five-match T20I series vs South Africa, it became the biggest talking point amongst cricket pundits. At 37 (1 June is his birthday), Karthik was rewarded for an incredible Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022 campaign where he helped his team Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) reach the playoffs.
Believe in yourself
Karthik’s reaction to his latest (and what could be his final chance) comeback was equally apt. “If you believe in yourself, everything will fall into place!”, tweeted the Tamil Nadu skipper.
Karthik’s comeback is not an ordinary one. It was only a few months back, during the last IPL auctions, that his previous IPL franchise Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) had decided to let him go. The general impression before the auctions was that he might not even find a team this time around. But RCB came to his rescue by picking him for an unexpectedly high price of Rs 5.4 crore.
Karthik justified RCB’s confidence and paid back every single penny spent on him during the next eight weeks. His 330 runs from 16 outings with a strike rate of over 183 is a testimony of his grit and determination to stay relevant on the world stage.
The story of Karthik goes back to 5 September 2004, when he first donned the Blue cap against England. He was raw then and was one of the many wicket-keepers tried by then skipper Saurav Ganguly. The experiment soon stopped after the arrival of Dhoni in 2005.
Karthik was part of Team India in 2006 which played its first-ever T20I against South Africa in Johannesburg. With Dhoni quickly spreading his wings, the next decade had no room for anyone else.
Karthik had to deal with his own family issues. First, the shock of finding out about his wife’s affair with his best friend Murali Vijay, and then dealing with the process of getting divorced. His self-esteem was under attack along with his cricketing career. But his new-found love, Dipika, helped him overcome all that.
It was only after Dhoni’s retirement that the selectors started looking to groom a young wicketkeeper-batsman for the days ahead. And Delhi’s Rishabh Pant grabbed that vacant place with his swashbuckling batting. Karthik soon had the commentary mic in his hands. The Tamil Nadu veteran appeared to have moved on, like many others in his fraternity and received a positive response from viewers.
But as fate would have it, Karthik’s hard work, grit and determination paid off one more time as he got ample runs in the Ranji Trophy season as captain of the Tamil Nadu side. And not to forget that this was Karthik’s 21st season in first-class cricket.
Karthik will undoubtedly miss Rohit during his return home series against South Africa, which begins on 9 June. However, the veteran gloveman will certainly not forget his most unforgettable innings in recent times under Rohit’s captaincy when his breath-taking innings helped India win the final in 2018 vs Bangladesh in a last-ball finish.
If you can remember that final, India needed 34 off the last two overs with Karthik batting alongside struggling Vijay Shankar. His 29 off just eight deliveries, with that last ball six when five were required to win, is still fresh in the minds of cricket fans.
New finisher for Team India?
Karthik’s IPL 2022 innings have shown that he has become one of the most consistent finishers in the game.
With the T20 World Cup set to take place in Australia later this year, Karthik will be hoping that his current form continues to back his instincts. And this is what Team India currently needs as no one has taken the mantle of Dhoni.
With Karthik turning 37 on June 1, he has found the Midas touch at the right time to end his career on a high. The number of runs he has scored in this season’s IPL has proved that whatever opportunities he has had in the past, there has always been a gap between his potential and his statistical returns.
For the time being, The Patriot wishes Dinesh Karthik a happy birthday and continued success!
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