A young Dinesh Karthik was the Player of the Match in India’s first-ever T20I, against South Africa in Johannesburg on December 1, 2006. He scored an unbeaten 31 off 28 as Team India chased down a target of 127 with six wickets in hand and one ball remaining.
More than 15 years later, he is the only player from either side who is still active in international cricket. This longevity is misleading though. Over the last decade and a half, DK (as he is fondly known), has only featured in 32 T20Is and has scored 399 runs at a strike rate of 143.52. He has been more out than in the Indian team.
Even his latest comeback to the Indian setup for the T20I series against South Africa at home, which begins on Thursday (June 9), has come after a gap of nearly three years. He last represented the Men in Blue during the 2019 50-over World Cup in England.
Unlike his previous returns though, the series against South Africa marks the beginning of Karthik’s last chance to leave a significant stamp on Indian cricket. He recently turned 37 and, even if he stays fit, he will only be considered for future selection on the basis of his performances di lui with the willow.
Unlucky or too lucky?
There are two ways to look at the veteran cricketer’s international career.
One view would say that he has been unfortunate not to have played more for India. He made his international debut around the same time as MS Dhoni. And once the latter took the game by storm, he obviously became India’s first choice keeper-batter across all formats of the game.
In a nutshell, Karthik was probably born in the wrong era as, while he was talented without a doubt, his ability paled in comparison to MSD.
Looking at the other side of the coin, though, the Tamil Nadu cricketer did get quite a few opportunities to establish himself in the Indian team, especially in the Test and one-day formats. Karthik played 26 Tests and 94 ODIs between 2004 and 2019, which is quite a significant number of games. But his stats about him do not do justice to his talent about him.
The right-handed beat averages 25 in the traditional format of the game and just over 30 in the 50-over format. As such, it can also be claimed that the keeper-batter got more than enough chances to prove his worth di lui but failed to grab them.
Scattered glimpses of brilliance
The affable cricketer cannot go back and change what has gone wrong in his career. But he has earned a chance to end his stint with India on a glorious note. Not everybody is lucky to get such an opportunity.
There have been players who have been snubbed constantly despite performing day in and day out. In wicket-keeping parlance, it is up to Karthik to either catch or drop this one last chance.