Versatile Karthik ready for any role
Ever since he burst on to the domestic scene as a teenager more than a decade ago, Dinesh Karthik has been considered as a prodigious talent with the bat. Add to it his skills as a wicketkeeper and exceptional fielder and he becomes an all-round package.
But without consistent performances, talent doesn't get you too far. As a result, it wasn't a surprise when Karthik was dropped from the Indian team after an ordinary outing during the tri-series in Dambulla where he scored 33 runs in five innings against New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
Similarly, after a season in which Karthik was at his consistent best, nobody was surprised when Karthik returned to India's squad for the Champions Trophy, to be played in England from June 6. Even the man himself wasn't surprised.
"I am happy about it [selection]. I've been batting well and it feels good when your efforts are rewarded," Karthik said. He has been in exceptional touch while batting at No. 3 for Mumbai Indians during the IPL - 331 runs in 10 matches at a strike-rate of almost 140 - and it has come at the back of a run-heavy domestic season.
In the season-opening Corporate Trophy, he emerged as the highest run-getter with 301 runs from three innings for India Cements. Then in the Ranji Trophy, even though it was a disappointing season for Tamil Nadu, Karthik was by far their top scorer with 577 runs at 64.11.
Then came the domestic one-dayers. And even though Tamil Nadu failed to progress to the all-India knockouts of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, Karthik scored at least a fifty in each of his five innings. As a result, despite playing only five games, he finished as the second-highest run-scorer of the tournament.
"All along [these three years], I have been working hard in domestic cricket," he said. "I have been trying to be as consistent as possible. And it feels good enough to score virtually every time I bat these days."
The confidence drawn from such consistency means Karthik wasn't weighed down at the prospect of replacing an ODI stalwart like Yuvraj Singh. Though Karthik hasn't yet been spoken to either by the selectors or team management about his specific role in the team, the squad composition hints that he may well be required to bat in the middle order. And he is up for the challenge. "That is what I have done even earlier, so I am ready to play any role that the team management expects of me - whether a specialist batsman or a keeper-batsman."
Over the last two years, Karthik has been working with his personal coach Prasanna Agoram, the South African national team's performance analyst. And the efforts have culminated in Karthik being recalled to the national squad, incidentally for a tour to the same country where Karthik made his international debut more than eight years ago.
"We had to make minor corrections to my batting techniques," Karthik said. "That has helped me immensely in order to be good enough to score every time I go out to bat. I would like to thank Prasanna and all my family members who have stood behind me during difficult times."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo