New Delhi: He hit the last ball, a half-volley from Soumya Sarkar, over extra cover and waited that extra minute to see whether it would clear the ropes. It did and a seemingly nonchalant Dinesh Karthik raised his arms, he had taken India to an improbable last-ball win over Bangladesh.
When he’d walked in to bat, favourites India needed 34 runs off 12 balls. Having missed connecting the first four balls of the 18th over, newbie Vijay Shankar got a leg bye off the fifth and put Manish Pandey on strike. An under-pressure Pandey holed out to long on trying to go for maximum. Like many others, I thought this was curtains for India.
But out came Karthik and tonked his first ball for a six. Karthik finished with 29 off 8 balls, his cameo ensured an India sans Kohli, Dhoni, Bumrah and Bhuvi - their regular limited overs champions - won a trophy. Talk about bench strength!
But that a player of Karthik’s seniority and calibre finds himself on the bench must be one of the enigmas of Indian cricket. It also proves how circumstances and luck play a huge role in shaping careers.
He made his debut in 2004 and played 23 Tests, his last being in 2010. He’s played 79 ODIs in these 14 years and 18 T20Is - always a bridesmaid never a bride. A regular fixture in the rest side after his debut, Karthik was replaced by Dhoni in 2005 whose prolific form in ODIs catapulted him to the Test team. As MSD rose to become the skipper, DK became a man for the benches, getting an occasional looking when the number 1 wicketkeeper was injured or rested.
In a Press Trust of India interview on the eve of the match, Karthik said: "From where I sit, every tournament is important. One bad tournament and I will be way out. So, in every tournament, I need to be at the top of my game and try to do as well as I can.”
Aware that opportunities in Indian cricket, especially right at the top are few and far between, this journeyman of team India seems happy to play for his place and embrace the pressure. “There is pressure but at where I am sitting, I need to be able to handle that pressure. I need to embrace it rather than run away from it or use it as an excuse. It doesn't matter whether I play this tournament, IPL or the England series, for me every match is important.”
An elated Rohit Sharma said after the match: "Very happy for DK. I want one of the experienced campaigners to stay at the end - that's why I held DK back.” It was a relived Rohit living by the epithet ‘all is well that ends well.’
For 32-year-old DK, for now, it’s back to India and the IPL where he’s been named the captain of KKR. And he will be happy to make the most of whatever opportunities he gets. Here’s to looking forward to some ‘korbo, lorbo, jitbo’ and some DK specials!