Zimbabwe v India, 4th ODI, Bulawayo July 31, 2013

Karthik wants to fire as specialist batsman

Such is MS Dhoni's value as a player, it takes two men to replace him. But while one of the talking points of this tour has been how well Virat Kohli might fill Dhoni's shoes as captain, rather fewer people have been discussing Dinesh Karthik's merits as a wicketkeeper-batsman.

If Karthik had it his own way, however, his keeping wouldn't be a factor. Of all people, Karthik knows that the keeper's gloves belong to Dhoni for the foreseeable future and so he has set his sights on proving his worth as a batsman for India in all three formats.

"It's not something I've ever felt bad about because I feel it's a great opportunity playing with [Dhoni]," Karthik said. "I've always looked at myself [as someone who] can play as a batsman in this side and that's what I'm looking to do - play as a batsman in all three formats of the game."

It was his batting as a teenager that first attracted the selectors' attention, and once again the runs he scored during a fruitful IPL season with Mumbai Indians led to his recall in a simplified batting role for the Champions Trophy in June - his first games for India in three years. Karthik has also benefitted from some minor tweaks to his batting technique which have aided his balance at the crease.

"I feel I have the technique," Karthik said. "It's important that every time I get an opportunity I pile up the runs and make sure I do well as a batsman. We won the Champions Trophy and that was great. West Indies was a quiet time, but Zimbabwe again in the two innings I've played I've done well."

Yet, Karthik's figures do not quite convince. Since his return in England, Karthik has scored two fifties in 11 innings. Although the runs haven't begun to flow just yet, on a few occasions since his recall Karthik had shown he has the ability to absorb pressure in the middle order after the loss of early wickets. Most recently, he entered the fray during the second ODI at Harare with India wobbling at 65 for 4. He didn't need as much luck as his partner Shikhar Dhawan, who was dropped twice and caught off a no ball, and compiled a tidy 69 that helped set a match-winning total. His reaction to pressure situations like that will be key to Karthik's future.

"I'm looking forward to these things," he said. "It's important that you keep putting in performances every time you go into bat and be as consistent as you can, and that's something I'm really looking forward to doing."

Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town

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