Back in 2004, the sight of Dinesh Karthik - horizontal on the ground - as he stumped Michael Vaughan to record his first dismissal as a wicket-keeper for his country, was probably the first sign of Indian cricket's tryst with athleticism. In a generation, that valued skill and technique over athleticism, Karthik was a bright spark that failed to make a mark at the international stage.
His international career never took off as, by the time he began producing consistent performances in domestic cricket, the wicketkeeping batsmen's role was well taken over by Mahendra Singh Dhoni who continues to reign supreme (at least in limited-overs cricket). While Dhoni made his presence felt from behind the stumps and later took over the reins as India's captain, Karthik's failure to make his second chances count further pushed him in abyss.
But, the Tamil Nadu cricketer didn't give up. And, learning from his mistakes, the right-hander continued to amass runs in domestic cricket. His hardwork and patience finally presented him an opportunity to right his wrongs and, for a man who was lurking in the shadows of Dhoni, didn't disappoint.
Roped in for the 2018 Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka, Karthik made the opportunity count by producing one of the finest batting finishes in the history of ODI cricket. Playing in the final against Bangladesh, India was edging close to what would've been an embarrassing win, the right-hander scored 29 runs off just eight deliveries - including a last ball six - to seal a nail-biting win for India.
It was that performance from Karthik that gave a second wind to his international career. With Dhoni already retired from Test cricket, Karthik was being dubbed as India's new wicket-keeping option in the longest format and, maybe when time comes, the deserving successor to MSD. But, once again, Karthik had to endure a heartbreak as he saw young Rishabh Pant rising through the ranks to, now, establish his reputation as Dhoni's successor.
Fantastic run chase by India . Excellent 100 from Virat, he makes it look very easy. Was wonderful to see Dhoni finish of the game beautifully and Dinesh Karthik's cameo was very very important in the end. The final game should be a cracker.— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) January 15, 2019
Despite the turn of events, Karthik has tried to make a mark in the limited opportunites he has got so far. Chipping in with quickfire innings, keeping the wickets and even contributing to his side as a fielder; Karthik has done it all. But, still, there's not much credit for his showing.
Lovely cameo by Karthik. He now plays this role as well as anybody.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) January 15, 2019
The second ODI between India and Australia, once again, had a similar script for Karthik who, despite playing a pivotal knock for his side, quietly slipped under the radar as the cricket fans celebrated the Virat Kohli's 39th ton and Dhoni's 69th fifty in the 50-over format.
But, amid the Kohli-Dhoni show, Karthik, too, deserved praise for his 14-ball 25. Though his individual score in 20s might not seem too magnanimous against the ones recorded by Kohli and Dhoni, Karthik's knock, those who saw the game till the very end would agree, was not easy.
Splendid hand being played by Dinesh Karthik...— Cricketwallah (@cricketwallah) January 15, 2019
With not much room for error, the middle-order batsman was successful in his strokeplay, taking pressure off Dhoni at the other end. In the last five overs, when the more popular cricketer couldn't find the big shots or run as fast as he used to, Karthik produced boundaries on his own to subside any panic in the Indian run-chase.
That was a superb little cameo from Dinesh Karthik. He only faced one dot ball, scored six ones, four twos, one three and two fours in his 25* (14). He alleviated the pressure with minimal risk. A classic finisher's innings. #AUSvIND— Freddie Wilde (@fwildecricket) January 15, 2019
In the end, it was Dhoni who typically smashed a six to get India in touching distance before taking the winning single to silence his critics and sending the Indian cricket fans into delirium. But, if Dhoni is credited for finishing the game for India, then Karthik should also be lauded for his supporting act (even if it was small).