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World Cup 2019: The coveted number 4 spot consideration, Spotlight – Dinesh Karthik

The 33-year old Tamil Nadu batsman adds solidity while being able to accelerate the innings when he needs to.

Dinesh Karthik
Dinesh Karthik. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Dinesh Karthik counted his blessings as the World Cup squad was released. It certainly did not impact the unfazed Virat Kohli. Nor chairman MSK Prasad. Their task was done as far as the 15 names were released. Yet, for the unlikely Karthik, it certainly did matter. A lot.

In the grand scheme of things, the 33-year old did not have the best of outings in the IPL. Having raised the bar the previous year, big things were expected of him. At least from the likes of Venky Mysore, Shah Rukh Khan, and Juhi Chawla. He was going to lead a KKR outfit to certain glory. Or so they thought.

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As Prasad, a former custodian himself began his announcement, a nation held its breath. Who were the chosen ones? The ones who would bring them much needed glory. A billion cricket-crazy fans looked on. There would be surprises. There would be certain joy. And there would also be collateral damage.

The unlucky Mr Rayudu

Ambati Rayudu was for long viewed as Virat Kohli’s stabilizer. A middle-order batsman who had not quite lived up to the billing. As one would have thought. An opportunity found its way whilst the Indians toured Zimbabwe. In spite of being on the wrong side of 30, Rayudu got his chance. He would grab at it. Before leaning back into the doldrums of Indian domestic cricket.

The full impact of the collateral damage suffered was felt. Of all places, on the Twitter account of the Hyderabad-based batsman. The #BCCI at the end conveyed all of the emotions he was going through. Of course, the odd emoji usage might have helped his case. Yet, there was an outpour on Twitter.

It seemed as though the Indian junta took their eyes off the battles heating up in the political arena to attend to the wily Rayudu. The latter, all things said tried to make a joke. On the face of it, at least. Yet, the selection committee and Kohli remained firm on their stance. It was to be Vijay Shankar and not Rayudu who would set sail to the British Isles.

The critical number four spot

Ambati Rayudu
Ambati Rayudu. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Rayudu’s name had been tossed around the selection committee for over a decade. The committees, the chairmen and the whole nine yards had come and gone. And it seemed that Rayudu’s luck may well run out.

MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli and the cauldron of stand-in captains had come and gone. Yet, it was a pity few who had chosen to undertake the Rayudu experiment. Until the fateful afternoon at The Oval. Needless to say, this was the first time the flaws in Virat Kohli’s captaincy had been exposed. Dhoni might have been behind the stumps, but the fatality was there for all to see.

Ultimately, it was Hardik Pandya who seemed to be the saving grace. A 76 in vain as Pakistan rejoiced. The diagnosis into the problem focused on Yuvraj Singh. A batsman with flair and calibre, but one who could not salvage much. At 35, and barely making an impact, the axe was swift. The unlikely camaraderie with King Kohli and Yograj Singh’s rants could not stop the axe from falling.

The number four spot has been held by many. Yet, a precious few in the blues of the Indian colours have made it count. There are certainly more from where Dravid and Tendulkar came. MS Dhoni too occupied the spot temporarily. And now, it was time for Rayudu. The diagnosis had finally, yet seemingly yielded an answer. The answer with a good two years left for the World Cup.

It seemed, from the outset that Kohli had his eyes on the World Cup.

The Karthik-Shankar equation

Vijay Shankar
Vijay Shankar. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

It was not until the Nidahas Trophy that Vijay Shankar got his big break. With Hardik Pandya out injured, Shankar seemed to be preferred over Rishi Dhawan and Parvez Rasool. Kohli’s affinities towards all-rounders who bowl quick also found solace in the lanky Shankar. A tall, imposing figure who could bowl and bat as well as anyone else. His biggest asset? He could bowl with the old ball, something Kohli was desperate for.

In a touch of irony, the final of the Nidahas Trophy eventually witnessed Shankar and Karthik wielding their blades together. Of course, they had batted together, countless number of times for Tamil Nadu. Yet, the stage had not been as big. Nor had it been for India.

The Bangladeshis and Sanjay Manjrekar watched in awe as Karthik finished things off in the final delivery. Manjrekar seemed pleased with the win. So much so that he tipped the custodian for bigger things. Little did anyone know, how big things were to become. Both Karthik and Shankar would eventually find themselves boarding the flight to England to fight it out, on the biggest stage of them all.

The World Cup stability

From the outset, my reasoning would certainly not be popular. Yet, at the moment, it would seem as though Vijay Shankar would bat at number four. Further diagnosis of the problem would be that the number four spot does carry a certain responsibility. Stability in the innings, should the top order fade away would be nothing short of perfect. And just what the doctor ordered, as far as Virat Kohli is concerned.

At this point, it would be rather stupid to look back at what the squad should have been. The selectors, in their infinite wisdom, have managed to amass a squad they believe can compete for the grandest prize of all in England. Many would have tipped the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and perhaps even the overlooked Ambati Rayudu for the number four spot. Both have done exceedingly well, as the numbers tell us.

Dinesh Karthik
Dinesh Karthik. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Dinesh Karthik, as stated by Kohli himself, would serve as the back-up custodian. Should anything happen to MS Dhoni, God forbid. Yet, how good a bet would a stroke-player such as Karthik be for the number four spot. It is something certainly worth considering, let alone a good bet.

One might even remember when Karthik occupied the number four spot ahead of Dhoni in an ICC tournament. The 2013 Champions Trophy, where once again, Karthik was an unlikely mention in the squad. Yet, did not create such an uproar. And one would even consider him as a potential number four. Especially given the fact that he adds a bit of stability while managing to wear the finisher’s hat, should it be required.

Needless to say, the inclusion of Vijay Shankar at the number four spot, while innovative could very well upset the balance of the side. Of course, he adds the ‘three-dimension’ aspect sought after by Virat Kohli. But, an additional bowler could upset the plans of the three-pronged seamer attack.

While at the same time, Karthik provides the additional value of donning the gloves should something happen on the field to the evergreen Dhoni.

At the moment, with the World Cup fast approaching, Karthik seems to be the best suited for the role at number four should the Indian management have a change in their plans.

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