• Why Dinesh Karthik is the best possible replacement for Manish Pandey

    Karthik is currently in the best phase of his career as far as batting form is concerned and it is time for India to utilise him properly.

    Dinesh Karthik
    Dinesh Karthik. (Photo Source: Twitter)

    Dinesh Karthik’s season has just turned a lot better after Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced that the wicketkeeper-batsman from Chennai replaced the Karnataka batsman Manish Pandey in the Indian squad for the Champions Trophy. Karthik had been named in the reserves for the tournament.

    Luck has not quite been on Pandey’s side after his scintillating display in the ongoing Indian Premier League added with his domestic form booked him the ticket to England to play in the Champions Trophy. The 27-year-old batsman has scored 396 runs in the IPL at an average of 49.50 in 13 matches before he was ruled out from the tournament due to side strain.

    Dinesh Karthik’s domestic accolades

    His replacement Dinesh Karthik has been in exceptional form since the start of the Indian domestic season playing for Tamil Nadu. The 31-year-old has scored 704 runs in the 10 Ranji matches (one century and five half-centuries) at an average of 54.15 that Tamil Nadu featured in this year before getting knocked out of the tournament by a resilient Mumbai side.

    The consistency that the batsman has shown throughout the course of Ranji Trophy had the selectors in two minds, whether to select the experienced Karthik or to pick Pandey who has done well in the limited opportunities he has been given in the blue jersey.

    Karthik backed his performance in the Ranji Trophy with an outstanding display in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, where he scored 607 runs (two centuries and four half-centuries) in nine matches with an average of 86.71 and strike rate of 102.01. The batsman has not only helped his team get through to the finals in the Vijay Hazare Trophy but also helped his team get over the line in the finals against Bengal, who fell 37 runs short of the target.

    Alongside the Vijay Hazare win, the veteran keeper scored 202 runs at an average of 101 in the Deodhar Trophy against the likes of India Blue and India Red team which consisted of the Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan and Yuvraj Singh, to name a few. His tally of 854 runs in 12 List A matches is the fourth best record ever in the Indian domestic history, with only Ajay Jadeja and Sachin Tendulkar having a better record than the Chennaiite.

    He also has scored eight fifty-plus scores in 12 List A innings, which is the joint fifth fastest for any player in a single List A season. Among the players with eight or more fifty-plus scores in an Indian season, Karthik’s rate is the 2nd best behind Abhinav Mukund’s eight fifty-plus scores in 10 List A innings in 2009/10 season.

    A shining light in Gujarat Lions’ team

    Karthik then went on to represent the Indian Premier League side Gujarat Lions led by “Mr. IPL” Suresh Raina. The right-hander scored 361 runs in 14 matches for the injury-trodden Gujarat Lions, at an average of 36.10. Karthik had probably been Gujarat’s best performer this season after captain Raina.

    Karthik over the years has been one of India’s most consistent wicketkeepers despite the fact that Wriddhiman Saha is their numero uno keeper in the longest form of the game. The veteran last played in the 2013 Champions Trophy as a specialist batsman, where he was tried and tested at several positions, causing inconsistency in his batting form.

    2013 Champions Trophy disappointment

    Despite starting the 2013 Champions Trophy with two centuries in the warm-up games, the batsman faded in the tournament with the returns that he produced in the competition nowhere near the ones at the beginning. The batsman could only score 82 runs in the four innings that he played in England, with two of them being unbeaten knocks. His highest score of 51* came in the sixth match against the West Indies, where he guided the team home to an eight-wicket victory.

    Karthik was one of the batsmen to be featured on the stand-by list alongside his IPL skipper Suresh Raina and Delhi Daredevils’s explosive batsman Rishabh Pant. It would, however, be risky for MSK Prasad and co to pick Pant in the tournament, given his lack of experience on the International platform. Raina, too, would turn to be a perilous option given his weakness against the short ball and the swinging deliveries early in the innings.

    Karthik’s wicketkeeping has also improved leaps and bounds over the years alongside his batting. The Indian team further could use the batsman as a backup wicketkeeping option.

    He is currently in the best phase of his career as far as batting form is concerned, and it is time for India to utilise him properly. The way he has racked up runs in the domestic season has proved that he deserves another shot in the Indian jersey and the batsman would not let go of this opportunity to become a regular in the team.

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