“Dreams come true,” tweeted wicketkeeper batter Dinesh Karthik on Monday, shortly after he was named to the Indian T20 World Cup squad, and rightly so. Leaving aside the T20 World Cup squad, if anyone had said in 2021 that Dinesh Karthik would be making a comeback to the national side, probably no one would have believed it. But it’s a testament to Karthik’s perseverance, determination and guts that the 37-year-old veteran has managed to make his name in the Indian squad that will fly to Australia to try and win the T20 World Cup for the second time.
It is important to note that Karthik commented in the UK last year during the India-New Zealand World Test Championship final at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton. Now it’s not common for a cricketer who still has the dream of playing for the country to do broadcasting duties, so it’s no surprise that fans expected Dinesh Karthik to devote time to his career.
However, in several sets of interviews earlier this year, the right-handed batter made it clear that he still has a dream of playing for the country, and commenting was just a one-time thing for now.
Karthik, who previously led Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League (IPL), was not retained by the franchise ahead of the mega sale this year. So the biggest challenge for him has been to get a franchise and get that role clarity that will help him get noticed by the national selectors. Then he found the right match in Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The righthanded batter was given the finisher role by the franchise and he had that role clear from the start. And what followed was a dream run in the world’s Premier T20 league as he scored 330 runs in 16 games with a strike rate of 183.33.
Midway through the season, after a 66* match-winning knockout on just 34 balls against Delhi Capitals, Dinesh Karthik spoke to Virat Kohli and it was then that he made clear his intentions to play the T20 World Cup.
“The big vision is to play for the country. I know there’s a World Cup around the corner, and I desperately want to be a part of that World Cup and I want to help India cross the line. It’s been a long time since India has won a multi-country tournament and I want to be that person who helps India do that, for that you have to do things differently, you have to be aware of so many things and try to be that player that people notice and say ‘hello’ he’s doing something special. Every day I practice with that intention in my mind. When you get old, you have to be very fit,” Karthik had told Kohli in a video on iplt20.com.
This performance in the IPL paved the way for Karthik to be named in the Indian squad for the home series against South Africa, then played the following series against Ireland, England, West Indies and then the Asian Cup. However, the batter was benched for games against Hong Kong, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the continental tournament.
When Karthik, who has now played 160 caps for India, took the field in the first T20I of a five-game series against South Africa at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi, he played his first T20I for India after three years. It is important to note that in 2006 Karthik had played India’s first-ever T20I against South Africa and he played with the bat and scored an unbeaten 31.
Whether the wicketkeeper batter gets the nod to Rishabh Pant in the playing XI for the T20 World Cup or whether he plays alongside Pant is a question to be asked later, but for now one has to appreciate the grind that veteran Karthik went through and his story is proof of never giving up.