Chennai: Dinesh Karthik has become the toast of the nation with his 8-ball-29* against Bangladesh in the T20 tri-series final but he still feels like a "student in a University where Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a topper", when it comes to the tag of the best finisher.
"When it comes to Dhoni -- I am studying in a university where he is the topper. He is one of the guys I have always looked up to. It is unfair to compare me with him," Karthik told mediapersons during an interaction here on Tuesday.
Interestingly, Karthik made his international debut in September 2004 during the Champions Trophy in England, three months before Dhoni's debut against Bangladesh in a bilateral series in December.
In the next 14 years, Dhoni became India's most successful captain and one of its greatest limited overs exponent, while Karthik struggled on the fringe, waiting for his chances.
"His (Dhoni) journey has been totally different and my journey is a different one. He is a terrific guy. He is somebody who used to be reserved, shy. Today, he is a person who is really vocal in helping the youngsters. I feel these comparisons are very unfair. As I said, he is probably a topper in a university, where I am studying. I am just happy in the space I am in," Karthik said.
Having been around for a decade and a half, Karthik is finally enjoying his time in the spotlight, something he has so richly deserved. He attributes it to his good karma and divine intervention.
"It feels good that all the attention is on me. All the good karma and good things I have done over the years helped me hit that six. It is just that the shot went for a six... Probably the two mm extra that it went for it to become a six."
The feeling is yet to sink in and Karthik admitted it.
"It is hard for me to put in words. I am just happy to play this sport. When you play domestic cricket, it is a hard grind, To suddenly get so much attention feels so good but you also know that you want this to be the start of something special," he added.
Karthik also said the time spent with Mumbai cricketer Abhishek Nayar over the years had helped him strengthen the mental aspect of his game.
"He (Abhishek Nayar) has been the most important factor in the last two and half years in my career. He has helped me prepare for games. He has made me think in terms of strategy. He also knows what is the right way to work hard. He has been the river and I have been the boat," he added.
Karthik also defended rookie Vijay Shankar who didn't have the experience of tackling Mustafizur Rahman's slower deliveries.
"Vijay Shankar has the skill. He has done really well as a bowler. For someone, who is a batting all-rounder, he did well under pressure. I see a really good future for him. He has got a good attitude. He is a special talent and he has it in him to play for a long, long time," the 32-year-old stumper said.
He may have been a bit upset with Rohit Sharma's decision to promote Shankar ahead of him but lavished praise on Mumbaikar's style of captaincy.
"His (Rohit Sharma's) biggest strength is that he has won three IPLs as skipper and has immense belief in his ability to lead a team. He does a lot of homework. He is strategically very strong. He is a very thorough captain and is someone who is highly-skilled," Karthik said.
Karthik has been named captain of Kolkata Knight Riders for the upcoming IPL and he would like to grow in stature after the platform that Nidahas Trophy has provided him with.
"(The forthcoming) IPL is extremely important. It is a fabulous league. Indian cricket is where it is because of the IPL. We get to rub shoulders with the best. On a personal note, it is a very important league for me," Karthik said.
The feisty Karthik is excited about his new role and wants to live up to the legacy left behind by Gautam Gambhir.
"I am very excited about the captaincy role. Maybe, it is time for me to embrace captaincy. The team has a very good bowling attack. I have to sit down with the coaches and see where I need to bat," he added.
About the return of CSK and Rajasthan Royals, he said it will add a lot to the league.
"CSK and Rajasthan Royals bring a totally different dynamics to the game. I am sure it is going to be a fabulous league," Karthik said.