There's time to catch up
"It's important I prove to myself that I'm as good, that I'm a better player than what I was," says wicket keeper Dinesh Karthik
WILL HE MAKE IT TO TEAM INDIA? Dinesh Karthik Photo: V. GANESAN
There is to Dinesh Karthik's demeanour enough of the jack-in-the-box to confirm fealty to his profession: wicket keeping. Stereotypical, perhaps, but keeping is the preserve of nervy, twitchy, hyperactive men with a fondness for battle.
Keeping also is a solitary profession. Mandated by the rules, there is just one per side. And as a consequence, Karthik finds himself in a not wholly desirable position.
A certain M. S. Dhoni often unjustly reduced to a designer mane and a violent bat has seemingly sealed that lone spot in Team India. Leaving Karthik with the unenviable task of reclaiming his place.
Hence, efforts such as his stupendous 403 not out the first quadruple hundred in first-division cricket, the extremely competitive club league played here in Chennai assume significance.
"It taught me how to play a long innings, how to progress during such an innings, how to pace my way through it," he says of his 357-ball effort.
"I would rate that very high. Generally after a hundred I give it away, trying to hit the big shots. This time I just batted on. I hit seven sixes, but those were things that came instinctively, not something I had pre-programmed."
He also hit an incredible 55 fours!
There is no better club league in India in which to prepare a case for Test re-entry.
"It's very important to play good club cricket," says the man, who counts the series win in West Indies, though not part of the playing eleven, among his most cherished memories.
"You can try out a lot of things and see if it works here (in first division). When you are playing at a competitive level, you know where you stand when you try out these things. You can cheat anybody, but you can't cheat yourself."
Karthik played 10 Tests for India between November 2004 and September 2005, but didn't do enough with the bat (245 runs at 18.84) to keep intruders away. "When you look back at things, you want to change a lot of them, but I'll look at it this way: I had an opportunity, I knew what mistakes I made, and I'm trying to correct them," he says.
"When I look back I definitely feel I could have done a lot better, I could have done this, I could have done that. It's important not to get frustrated or irritated by this; just make sure I keep evaluating myself, and progressing."
So, how does he get along with Dhoni? Do they, like jealous beauties, keep a sneaky eye on the other's routines? "There's no problem between us. We are very good friends. We were with each other for a long time in the West Indies, and it was very cool.
"There's a big competitor ahead of me, and it's important I prove to myself that I'm as good, that I'm a better player than what I was. It's good to have competition, and when someone sets such high standards, you have to up your game. I'm looking to get closer to him, to always keep him on his toes. But, it's important I look at what I can do to become better."
Karthik worked hard on his keeping, going through a range of drills with Team India biomechanist Ian Frazer during the West Indies tour, to improve "my range of movement".
The tour also helped him watch, up close, how greats such as Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble prepared.
The 21-year-old has plenty of time to play catch up. Karthik says one of his goals this season is "to not put too much pressure on myself"; he knows the importance of staying in the national selectors' vision, even if it's only peripheral.
S. RAM MAHESH
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