June 20, 2013

The Karthik-Dhoni dynamic

Every time Dinesh Karthik looked set to cement his spot in the India side, MS Dhoni seemed to emerge as an obstacle. Until now
17

Dinesh Karthik: finally tasting a period of success as a specialist batsman © Getty Images

India had lost the first two matches of the three-match ODI series against England in 2004. The third one was a dead rubber, and India chose to relieve Rahul Dravid of his wicketkeeping duties.

Dravid began playing as a regular wicketkeeper in the West Indies in 2002, in an experiment to lend the team a greater balance and the luxury to play seven batsmen. He kept the gloves in the 2003 World Cup, in which India finished as runners-up, and the decision seemed a worthwhile gamble. Just as they prepared to move on to find a more sustainable solution, a few setbacks forced India to go back to Dravid as keeper to beef up the batting again.

Dinesh Karthik made his debut for India in the NatWest dead rubber in 2004 and scored 1 off 12 balls. India were all out for 204 and had run through the England top order from one end, while Michael Vaughan was rock solid at the other. With Ashley Giles for company, Vaughan resurrected the innings from 62 for 6, before losing his partner at 154.

With the match hanging in the balance, Vaughan stepped out to a Harbhajan Singh delivery, bowled way down the leg side. The 19-year-old debutant keeper moved across swiftly, gathered the ball, and when he realised he was too far away to stump, dived full length to flick the bails off, with Vaughan stranded. Match sealed. So was the debate around playing a specialist keeper instead of Dravid, who kept in only two matches after that.

Except that MS Dhoni, not Karthik, took the gloves from Dravid eventually. Karthik made his debut on September 5, 2004 and played two ODIs that year, not batting in one. Dravid last played as a keeper on November 13, 2004. Dhoni made his one-day debut on December 23, 2004. If there was any noise about Karthik getting a raw deal, it was muted when Dhoni launched Shahid Afridi over extra cover on his way to a brilliant 148 in Visakhapatnam. The rest is history.

****

India's players had a horrendous schedule in 2007-08. A three-Test series against Pakistan at home in November 2007, an Australia tour from December to March, followed immediately by a three-Test series against South Africa at home, a 44-day IPL, a tri-series in Bangladesh, and the Asia Cup in Pakistan. The schedule was so punishing that Dhoni vented his frustration in press conferences. The BCCI suggested tired players could opt for rest if they couldn't cope with the schedule. Dhoni chose to sit out the Test series in Sri Lanka in August 2008. At that point, he had one fifty in his last seven Tests and a solitary hundred from 29 Tests overall. Quite a bizarre and bold decision.

The selectors went back to Karthik. While Dhoni was a smashing success in ODIs, he wasn't quite indispensable in Tests yet. Also, Karthik was widely believed to be the better wicketkeeper. He also gave the team the option of a back-up opener. If he had paved the way for Dhoni to come into the ODI team earlier than Dhoni would otherwise have, this seemed like a kind of reversal of fortune.

But Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis demolished the Indian batting line-up, Karthik included, in the Tests. As if that wasn't bad enough, he had his worst series as keeper. India's captain, Anil Kumble, replaced Karthik with Parthiv Patel for the final Test, in Colombo, but Parthiv couldn't survive the Mendis magic either.

Dhoni came back for the ODIs that followed, took back his Test place against Australia at home and captained the team in Kumble's absence in the two matches that India won in that series. He took over the captaincy full-time when Kumble retired at the end of the series. The rest is history.

****

It's another comeback for Karthik in the Champions Trophy, this time as a specialist batsman. Against Australia in the warm-up match, Karthik, who had made a century in the previous game, came in at 39 for 4, and was joined by Dhoni at 55 for 5. They put on a mammoth 211-run partnership in about 30 overs, with Karthik scoring a brilliant century.

For someone whose career slowed down every time he competed for Dhoni's spot, not chasing that spot may just be his best bet yet.

When he's not watching / talking / tweeting / reading cricket, Mahesh Sethuraman works in a bank in India to pay his bills. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • spinkingKK on June 20, 2013, 8:56 GMT

    To me, Karthik, is one of the main reasons why India doing well in this tournament. He showed, earlier on in the tour, that the English conditions and facing up to the fast bowlers in those conditions should be taken as a challenge and play aggressively. He didn't just do it in one match. He did that in two warm up matches India played. This gave confidence to Dhawan and others who were struggling until then and the signs of Indian batting collapsing was well on the cards. I predicted India not to make the semi-finals. However, I didnt know that Karthik was in the squad and he was going to get a chance in the middle order. Karthik was also the man responsible for India's success in the T20's when they started. Because, he was the first one to stand up the South African pacemen and show to his team mates that they can also be super aggressive against the likes of Morkel and co. I always wanted Karthik in the Indian team and I am very happy he is finally there.

  • Emancipator007 on June 20, 2013, 4:36 GMT

    Would like to remind younger fans that a cherubic 17-year old from Gujarat has been the more courageous batsman among all 3 in Tests. Parthiv has opened against a rampaging Shoaib,Sami in historic Test series which India won against Pak in 2004. Plus he has faced Bond bowling at EXTREME pace at his peak with aplomb. Dhoni's batting in non-subcontinental tours still suspect; it is just that he performs his other 2 roles of captaincy & WK so efficiently that it is overlooked.DK has done well in 2007 Tests in Eng & is superb T-20 innovator (saw him in 2010 IPL playing shots against pace with utter ease);he seems highly motivated to perform this time. Saha is another gutsy & sound batter having done well in both Tests that he has played; was in peak form last season but did not get enuf chances. I still have doubts about this batting line-up for World Cup in OZ/NZ. Raina shud be booted out;11 straight innings failures in SA ODIs.Pujara has to be slotted in for OZ.

  • Viv-Viru on June 22, 2013, 0:38 GMT

    Wonderful background and history. If selectors let Karthik keep wickets then we will have another all rounder in Dhoni, joining Jadeja.

  • jimbond on June 21, 2013, 7:26 GMT

    Lets hope the selectors dont bring back Karthik into the test team based on his T20 and ODI performances. Karthik is a tried, tested and failed talent in test cricket. While Rohit Sharma is similarly a failed talent in ODIs (this may be his last chance), he has a good enough first class record to be given at least a chance in tests. I would suggest that both Rohit Sharma and Badrinath (also Rahane be given another chance in tests) before testing out discards like Karthik.

  • MaruthuDelft on June 21, 2013, 3:00 GMT

    Karthik gave confidence to India in this Champion's trophy. Unfortunately he hasn't got a chance to post a big score. He gets it in the Final. In the Final Rohit Sharma (Rohit is not actually good) and Dhawan (run scoring fatigue) would be out for single figures.

  • bharatratna on June 20, 2013, 15:03 GMT

    One particular match to remember with regard to these two players is this one: http://www.espncricinfo.com/bdeshvind/engine/current/match/282688.html

    It was the first match after the WC-07 debacle and Bangladesh were at it again, reducing India to 112/4 after 20 overs. Karthik and Dhoni battled out the May heat and the spin to ensure India's victory was a formality. In the absence of proven batting ability, Karthik has always found it difficult to make his way though to the team. That his MI stint has given him the opportunity this time is but a testament to his skills and perseverance.

  • on June 20, 2013, 14:18 GMT

    This is yet another example of that talent is a waste without proper temperament. Temperament wise Dhoni has always been light years ahead of the likes of DK who may be more talented. Plus over the years he has worked hard on his batting and keeping. Today standing up to the stumps on turning tracks, there is no keeper who even comes near Dhoni. Similarly, he is also probably the most complete ODI batsman ever. Plus he has also been extremely consistent in tests. Add to this his captaincy and you have a modern day great. Time the likes of DK learnt from Dhoni.

  • scripted on June 20, 2013, 13:09 GMT

    @siddhartha: At times, there's too much emphasis on 'classy' in Indian cricket. Gambhir has been inconsistent recently, Karthik has been in great touch. The player in better form deserves to play.

  • SebV on June 20, 2013, 12:51 GMT

    The suggestion that Parthiv Patel is the best of the 3 is outright hilarious. There are no memorable wins that come to mind where Parthiv made a significant contribution. The best 2 playing in Cardiff today could easily get into the team on batting alone and are both just as good and very likely better at wicket-keeping than Parthiv. Sorry Patel has no place on the Indian team. Wish SRH could buy a better Indian batsman ... both Sanga and De Kock can keep and one of them is certain to play.

  • on June 20, 2013, 10:07 GMT

    How the days change! Once Indian batsman had to take the role of Wicket keeper, but now Genuine WK are taking the role of Batsman.

  • spinkingKK on June 20, 2013, 8:56 GMT

    To me, Karthik, is one of the main reasons why India doing well in this tournament. He showed, earlier on in the tour, that the English conditions and facing up to the fast bowlers in those conditions should be taken as a challenge and play aggressively. He didn't just do it in one match. He did that in two warm up matches India played. This gave confidence to Dhawan and others who were struggling until then and the signs of Indian batting collapsing was well on the cards. I predicted India not to make the semi-finals. However, I didnt know that Karthik was in the squad and he was going to get a chance in the middle order. Karthik was also the man responsible for India's success in the T20's when they started. Because, he was the first one to stand up the South African pacemen and show to his team mates that they can also be super aggressive against the likes of Morkel and co. I always wanted Karthik in the Indian team and I am very happy he is finally there.

  • Emancipator007 on June 20, 2013, 4:36 GMT

    Would like to remind younger fans that a cherubic 17-year old from Gujarat has been the more courageous batsman among all 3 in Tests. Parthiv has opened against a rampaging Shoaib,Sami in historic Test series which India won against Pak in 2004. Plus he has faced Bond bowling at EXTREME pace at his peak with aplomb. Dhoni's batting in non-subcontinental tours still suspect; it is just that he performs his other 2 roles of captaincy & WK so efficiently that it is overlooked.DK has done well in 2007 Tests in Eng & is superb T-20 innovator (saw him in 2010 IPL playing shots against pace with utter ease);he seems highly motivated to perform this time. Saha is another gutsy & sound batter having done well in both Tests that he has played; was in peak form last season but did not get enuf chances. I still have doubts about this batting line-up for World Cup in OZ/NZ. Raina shud be booted out;11 straight innings failures in SA ODIs.Pujara has to be slotted in for OZ.

  • Viv-Viru on June 22, 2013, 0:38 GMT

    Wonderful background and history. If selectors let Karthik keep wickets then we will have another all rounder in Dhoni, joining Jadeja.

  • jimbond on June 21, 2013, 7:26 GMT

    Lets hope the selectors dont bring back Karthik into the test team based on his T20 and ODI performances. Karthik is a tried, tested and failed talent in test cricket. While Rohit Sharma is similarly a failed talent in ODIs (this may be his last chance), he has a good enough first class record to be given at least a chance in tests. I would suggest that both Rohit Sharma and Badrinath (also Rahane be given another chance in tests) before testing out discards like Karthik.

  • MaruthuDelft on June 21, 2013, 3:00 GMT

    Karthik gave confidence to India in this Champion's trophy. Unfortunately he hasn't got a chance to post a big score. He gets it in the Final. In the Final Rohit Sharma (Rohit is not actually good) and Dhawan (run scoring fatigue) would be out for single figures.

  • bharatratna on June 20, 2013, 15:03 GMT

    One particular match to remember with regard to these two players is this one: http://www.espncricinfo.com/bdeshvind/engine/current/match/282688.html

    It was the first match after the WC-07 debacle and Bangladesh were at it again, reducing India to 112/4 after 20 overs. Karthik and Dhoni battled out the May heat and the spin to ensure India's victory was a formality. In the absence of proven batting ability, Karthik has always found it difficult to make his way though to the team. That his MI stint has given him the opportunity this time is but a testament to his skills and perseverance.

  • on June 20, 2013, 14:18 GMT

    This is yet another example of that talent is a waste without proper temperament. Temperament wise Dhoni has always been light years ahead of the likes of DK who may be more talented. Plus over the years he has worked hard on his batting and keeping. Today standing up to the stumps on turning tracks, there is no keeper who even comes near Dhoni. Similarly, he is also probably the most complete ODI batsman ever. Plus he has also been extremely consistent in tests. Add to this his captaincy and you have a modern day great. Time the likes of DK learnt from Dhoni.

  • scripted on June 20, 2013, 13:09 GMT

    @siddhartha: At times, there's too much emphasis on 'classy' in Indian cricket. Gambhir has been inconsistent recently, Karthik has been in great touch. The player in better form deserves to play.

  • SebV on June 20, 2013, 12:51 GMT

    The suggestion that Parthiv Patel is the best of the 3 is outright hilarious. There are no memorable wins that come to mind where Parthiv made a significant contribution. The best 2 playing in Cardiff today could easily get into the team on batting alone and are both just as good and very likely better at wicket-keeping than Parthiv. Sorry Patel has no place on the Indian team. Wish SRH could buy a better Indian batsman ... both Sanga and De Kock can keep and one of them is certain to play.

  • on June 20, 2013, 10:07 GMT

    How the days change! Once Indian batsman had to take the role of Wicket keeper, but now Genuine WK are taking the role of Batsman.

  • hellraiser9 on June 20, 2013, 8:55 GMT

    I hope and pray both should play together very well. D K is really hitting the ball well and brilliant fielder. So DK is a batsman , an excellent fielder and hope his WK abilities improved. If it is so then Dhoni will be extremely happy to share the burden with him. And it is nice to see both gelling well and performing well for Indian team. Wish them good luck for today's match and the final if india qualifies which seems likely

  • siddhartha87 on June 20, 2013, 8:53 GMT

    Dinseh Karthik is a wastage at no 4. He is useless. Bring back Gambhir,Gambhir is still classy in ODI s. Karthik is the weak link in the Indian batting line up. Like other times he will start failing again. MSD is never an obstacle to Karthik.He is million times better as a batsman than Karthik.In tests Karthik played 20-25 tests.Lost his spot, Again this was due to his pathetic batting and the fact that Sehwag and Gambhir were far superior to him when it comes to open the innings.

  • jimbond on June 20, 2013, 7:42 GMT

    For a long time, Dhoni has been good enough to play as a batsman, not only in ODIs but also in tests. His keeping though not spectacular has always been safe. Hence there was no real chance of Karthik displacing him. Lets hope Karthik continues his current form and manages to hold his own as a batsman (so that there is also a cover for the keeper). However, with Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Kohli (and Raina in ODis) in the middle order, Karthik would have to be on the top of his game to be included. Otherwise, Karthik is one of those unfortunate cricketers- had he been playing about five years earlier to Dhoni, he would have easily got into the team.- as there was a lack of really good keepers from Kirmani to Dhoni.

  • on June 20, 2013, 5:45 GMT

    What about the match vs Bangladesh. I remember just after India's early exit from WC 2007, we had a series against Bangladesh in Bangladesh. And in the very first ODI, we were down and out chasing Bangladesh's target until Karthik and Dhoni came together and put a century patnership to rescue India. Both played well in that match.

  • on June 19, 2013, 20:42 GMT

    It was during the inaugural T20 worldcup, when DK played under Dhoni.

  • on June 19, 2013, 20:01 GMT

    @Amit :yeah ur right...it was during the t20 world cup 2007. The famous quarter final against SA when India were defending a small total, Dhoni handed over the gloves to DK after some initial overs!! Rest is history :)

  • on June 19, 2013, 18:43 GMT

    can't recall when but dhoni and karthik have played international cricket together previously. msd was captain but didn't take the gloves...perhaps mahesh could help me recollect when this happened

  • on June 19, 2013, 18:43 GMT

    can't recall when but dhoni and karthik have played international cricket together previously. msd was captain but didn't take the gloves...perhaps mahesh could help me recollect when this happened

  • on June 19, 2013, 20:01 GMT

    @Amit :yeah ur right...it was during the t20 world cup 2007. The famous quarter final against SA when India were defending a small total, Dhoni handed over the gloves to DK after some initial overs!! Rest is history :)

  • on June 19, 2013, 20:42 GMT

    It was during the inaugural T20 worldcup, when DK played under Dhoni.

  • on June 20, 2013, 5:45 GMT

    What about the match vs Bangladesh. I remember just after India's early exit from WC 2007, we had a series against Bangladesh in Bangladesh. And in the very first ODI, we were down and out chasing Bangladesh's target until Karthik and Dhoni came together and put a century patnership to rescue India. Both played well in that match.

  • jimbond on June 20, 2013, 7:42 GMT

    For a long time, Dhoni has been good enough to play as a batsman, not only in ODIs but also in tests. His keeping though not spectacular has always been safe. Hence there was no real chance of Karthik displacing him. Lets hope Karthik continues his current form and manages to hold his own as a batsman (so that there is also a cover for the keeper). However, with Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Kohli (and Raina in ODis) in the middle order, Karthik would have to be on the top of his game to be included. Otherwise, Karthik is one of those unfortunate cricketers- had he been playing about five years earlier to Dhoni, he would have easily got into the team.- as there was a lack of really good keepers from Kirmani to Dhoni.

  • siddhartha87 on June 20, 2013, 8:53 GMT

    Dinseh Karthik is a wastage at no 4. He is useless. Bring back Gambhir,Gambhir is still classy in ODI s. Karthik is the weak link in the Indian batting line up. Like other times he will start failing again. MSD is never an obstacle to Karthik.He is million times better as a batsman than Karthik.In tests Karthik played 20-25 tests.Lost his spot, Again this was due to his pathetic batting and the fact that Sehwag and Gambhir were far superior to him when it comes to open the innings.

  • hellraiser9 on June 20, 2013, 8:55 GMT

    I hope and pray both should play together very well. D K is really hitting the ball well and brilliant fielder. So DK is a batsman , an excellent fielder and hope his WK abilities improved. If it is so then Dhoni will be extremely happy to share the burden with him. And it is nice to see both gelling well and performing well for Indian team. Wish them good luck for today's match and the final if india qualifies which seems likely

  • on June 20, 2013, 10:07 GMT

    How the days change! Once Indian batsman had to take the role of Wicket keeper, but now Genuine WK are taking the role of Batsman.

  • SebV on June 20, 2013, 12:51 GMT

    The suggestion that Parthiv Patel is the best of the 3 is outright hilarious. There are no memorable wins that come to mind where Parthiv made a significant contribution. The best 2 playing in Cardiff today could easily get into the team on batting alone and are both just as good and very likely better at wicket-keeping than Parthiv. Sorry Patel has no place on the Indian team. Wish SRH could buy a better Indian batsman ... both Sanga and De Kock can keep and one of them is certain to play.

  • scripted on June 20, 2013, 13:09 GMT

    @siddhartha: At times, there's too much emphasis on 'classy' in Indian cricket. Gambhir has been inconsistent recently, Karthik has been in great touch. The player in better form deserves to play.