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A 'special' resurgence

Dinesh Karthik's India call-up is no short of a story of a cult hero who at the age of 37 has made a comeback against all odds — from the commentary panel to donning the Indian jersey once again!

A special resurgence

If you believe in yourself, everything will fall into place!", tweeted 37-year-old Dinesh Karthik after being named in the 18-member squad for the five-match T20I series against South Africa set to begin on June 9. This has to go into one of the top drawers if we are to talk about any comeback across any sport.

Before the 2022 IPL auctions began, his previous franchise, Kolkata Knight Riders, has let him go. Fate could have turned elsewhere for the wicketkeeper-batsman, but he found his new home in Royal Challengers Bangalore who bought him for a whopping Rs 5.4 crore.

The story of Dinesh Karthik goes back to September 5, 2004, when he donned the India jersey for the first time against England. He was only one of the many wicket keepers tried by Saurav Ganguly before the arrival of Mahender Singh Dhoni in 2005. Karthik did get a few chances during the early days of Dhoni but then began a saga in Indian cricket that everyone cherishes.

Karthik ticked all the boxes as a batsman in limited-overs cricket — elegant, fearless, versatile, composed and all the superlatives you can think of. He was there when India played its first-ever T20I against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2006. Interestingly, he came out to bat when Dhoni was dismissed for a duck and guided India to a 6 wicket victory having remained unbeaten on 31 off 28 balls.

A year later, when India was back in South Africa for the inaugural T20 World Cup, Karthik couldn't continue from where he left. After a few dismal performances, he made way for Robin Utthapa towards the business end. Once Dhoni retired, almost 15 years had flown by and the selectors were eying to groom a young wicketkeeper-batsman for the days ahead — a race that was eventually won by Rishabh Pant who still is the first choice keeper in the international circuit.

In 2021, during India's tour of England, Karthik was seen on the commentary panel and somehow it appeared that the Tamil Nadu veteran had moved on like many others in Indian cricket. But Karthik and his fate had other ideas. A story of inspiration, a story of hard work, grit and determination, a story of a man who still does the basic right — plays the Ranji Trophy and scores runs.

Coming back to 2022, Karthik still remains a relevant possession (in fact a match-winner) after having played his first First-Class match somewhere 20 years ago. Whosoever has been watching this IPL would understand what I am talking about. The amount of runs he has scored is not the point, but the way he has been proving himself match after match would leave many of us in awe. With whatever opportunities he has had in the past, there has always been a gap between his potential and his statistical returns. Finally, it seems Karthik has reinvented himself at the age of 37 and he has donned the role of a finisher for RCB this year — a shoe not many would have expected to fill after ABD left!

If you can remember the Nidahas Trophy final between India and Bangladesh in 2018, when India needed 34 off the last two overs with Karthik on one end and a struggling Vijay Shankar on the other, to me that's where the redemption of Karthik the finisher began. He scored 29 off eight balls with some exquisite shots and finished off with a six when five runs were needed off the last ball.

With Pant and Hardik batting up the order for their respective franchises, it won't be surprising if India plays Karthik as a finisher in the matches before we head to Australia in October for the T20 World Cup.

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