Dinesh Karthik, who has been out of India's limited-overs squads since after the 50-over World Cup in England and Wales, is hoping to take the finisher's route back to the national T20I side. Karthik has been in stellar finishing form for Tamil Nadu in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy 50-over tournament, and with the men's T20 World Cup scheduled to be played in Australia late next year, he feels he has hit the right zone to do the job MS Dhoni used to do.
"It's [The T20 World Cup] a year away but if I feel I can keep performing and have a good [domestic] tournament, I'm sure I will go out there and play," Karthik, 34, told ESPNcricinfo ahead of the Hazare knockouts. "Because, I feel it's a key part that the Indian team is looking out as well - closing out matches and have someone who can understand those situations and do the best at that point of time.
"And I feel I've done that in the short time I'd played T20s [for India]. But, post the World Cup, I didn't play; they clubbed it [poor run at the World Cup] with the T20 part of it and removed me from the team as well. But I feel that I'm well-suited to play that role Dhoni has played for so many years now. I feel I can do something like that and I've been doing that for KKR and Tamil Nadu. So, if a slot opens up there, that's something I'll be really looking forward to. The T20 World Cup is definitely something I'd want to play."
Karthik's T20I career peaked when he cracked a stunning 29 off eight balls, including a last-ball six, in the Nidahas Trophy tri-series final in Colombo last year. In all, in the past two years in T20Is, nobody has chalked up more not outs than Karthik in a successful T20I chase.In the seven innings he has batted in when India have won chasing, Karthik has been there till the end on each occasion, making 141 runs at a strike rate of 142.42.
Karthik has fallen out of favour in ODI cricket after managing just 14 in two innings in the World Cup earlier this year, but he has been in excellent form as Tamil Nadu's finisher in the Hazare Trophy, scoring 349 runs in six innings at an average of 87.25 and strike rate of just over 135. His big-hitting has been central to Tamil Nadu notching up nine wins as many games in the Group C league phase in Jaipur.
He has made four fifties so far in the tournament, all coming at Nos. 5 or 6. He said that he relished the challenge of batting in the slog overs and hoped to draw from his vast experience at the domestic level.
"I want to bat in the toughest conditions and in the place where I can give others the opportunity to play and in the hardest times in the match I think I can use my experience," he said. "As someone who has been with Tamil Nadu for so long, I feel all the tough moments could be handled by somebody like me. And in those moments I could have somebody young with me and I could guide him along those lines. So, that's the role I'm doing here."
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo