April 6, 2017

'My ultimate aim is to play all formats as a batsman'

Dinesh Karthik on his productive domestic season, and how he has improved his batting and keeping
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WATCH - Karthik's crucial fifty

Dinesh Karthik has racked up 1872 runs in 36 innings - the most by a player across formats in the 2016-17 Indian domestic season. In fact, his 607 runs in the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy is a tournament record. Having led Tamil Nadu to back-to-back titles with hundreds in the finals of the Vijay Hazare Trophy and Deodhar Trophy, Karthik seems to be knocking on the national selectors' doors. He opens up on his consistency with the bat, improvement as a wicketkeeper, and comeback aspirations.

You had a bumper List A season - 854 runs in 12 innings.
I am definitely happy with the season. I am in a good space mentally and when I am on the field. I just ride with the wave. I am just as positive as I can be and do the best as I can.

Your confidence as a batsman stood out during the Vijay Hazare games, particularly in the final. You were driving fluently on the off side, despite fielders being placed at point, backward point, cover point and extra cover.
I am hitting the ball well and getting into good positions. When you are doing that, you tend to look at the gaps a lot more and play your shots. The difference between batting well and not that well is that you generally find gaps. I have been lucky that way this season.

What's the difference between the in-form Dinesh Karthik and the Dinesh Karthik of old?
This Karthik prepares well off the field. That has been the difference. Training helps you get physically stronger and a lot of times it helps you push the bar mentally as well. The way we trained at the Vijay Hazare and before the Ranji Trophy, it helped us. You might have spoken to [Hrishikesh] Kanitkar [the Tamil Nadu coach]. The practice situations were like match situations. It was definitely hard - the body is pushed far more than it used to be, and the result showed in the way we played in the last couple of tournaments.

From a small sample size, it seems like your bat comes down a lot straighter now. Have you worked on your technique recently?
In the last year I have been working on the technical aspects with Apurva Desai [a former Gujarat first-class batsman who is now an NCA Level C coach]. I can relate to what he says. Before that I had been working with Pravin Amre. I got my backlift corrected. Such things are helping me in playing in different conditions and different wickets. The backlift used to be rounded, it used to come from almost gully in an arc. It is much straighter now and helps me play the ball a lot better.

"The difference between batting well and not that well is that you generally find gaps. I have been lucky that way this season" © PTI

What is your assessment of your shot selection this season? Kanitkar was critical of a scoop you played in a low-scoring Ranji Trophy match against Mumbai, and you reached the Vijay Hazare hundred with a reverse sweep. You play your shots, but the execution looks better these days.
I have been pretty free-flowing in my batting. I have not let situations change my batting around too much. I have just changed a bit, depending on the situation here and there. I don't go harder than necessary at the ball. I try to maintain an even tempo in all the games. Sometimes you play well and sometimes you get out. When you get out, you feel it is a wrong shot. Most players in tough situations play shots that could be out, but over time you refine that and give yourself the best chance of performing, the more you play in such situations.

Are you consciously looking to build on your starts now?
Yes, after playing so many games it is important to absorb pressure in the middle overs and play at a certain tempo without disrupting the run rate. You will have to find the safest manner to keep going consistently over a period of time before you can launch. I think you need to have a lot of instinctive shots to play that kind of a game. I can understand situations better at this point of time.

Your 854 runs - the fourth highest in a List A season in India - will be hard for the selectors to ignore when they pick the squad for the Champions Trophy.
I am not thinking that far ahead to the Champions Trophy. The key for me is to play the IPL as well as I can.

With MS Dhoni as India's one-day keeper, do you see yourself as a specialist batsman if you are picked?
Yes, I believe I can contribute to the middle order as a specialist batsman, like I did in 2013. I have always believed in my batting abilities. I have always put my hand up as a pure batsman and have enjoyed fielding as well. My ultimate aim is to play all formats as a batsman. I have done it before. When Dhoni was there as keeper, I played as a specialist batsman. I keep telling myself there is no reason why I can't repeat it.

Keeping is an accessory. It is always there with me. If somebody is injured, I can always keep. But I am looking at myself primarily as a batsman who can play all formats.

"[As a keeper] I am comfortable against fast bowlers, I am athletic. Against spinners you will have to anticipate [the turn] and make sure the hands are not stiff" © BCCI

How have you improved as a batsman and as a keeper?
As a batsman, I respond to situations much better. Experience has helped me be in a lot of different situations, and a lot of that experience and knowledge is coming into play now.

Coming to keeping, I need to give a lot of credit to Sameer Dighe [the former India keeper Karthik trained with]. I could not keep for four or five Ranji Trophy games and it was hard on me mentally. The doors opened [when India's current Test keeper Wriddhiman Saha was injured and Parthiv Patel was picked as his replacement] but I could not keep then [due to injury]. That did not help. Then I started keeping and I am enjoying it.

Keeping is like a work in progress. The more hours you spend, the better you get. A keeper sometimes takes five or six catches. It is not about taking the straightforward ones, but it is about the best keeper you can be to spinners and fast bowlers overall. Whenever I find a break, I go and work with Dighe on my keeping. I have got into the groove after the injury. I am naturally comfortable against fast bowlers, I am athletic. Against spinners you will have to anticipate [the turn and bounce] and make sure the hands are not stiff. I am working on it. Keeping, like batting, is a subconscious process.

Where do you see yourself in the wicketkeeping pecking order - there's Saha, Rishabh Pant, Naman Ojha and Parthiv.
I don't look at the pecking order. Competition is always there. There are 27 states and 27 different keepers. They are all vying for the national spot. What I can do is focus as much as I can and believe in my abilities.

What's your role going to be with the Gujarat Lions in the IPL?
Hodgy [Lions' coach Brad Hodge] has given me straightforward plans of what I should be doing with the bat in the middle order. I would like to stick to that and do the best that I can for the team.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Naresh on April 10, 2017, 8:32 GMT

    @samroy - brillant comment on Sreesanth and RP singh. Two wasted talents that India did not make use of. Sreesanth just needed guidance from one senior player. Overseas players danced when Sreesanth bowled. It was that wrist of his which was one of the best of Indian bowlers. RP will be remembered in that T20 WC in SA which India won. He swung the ball at pace. Also needed to be guided.

  • jagan.santhanam@gmail.com on April 8, 2017, 13:40 GMT

    I watched his IPL cameo yesterday. He looks a lot different player than he was about the same time last year. I am sure he made some technical adjustments to his game, however, he seems to be in a very confident mental state. Hope the selectors take a closer look at the new version of DK and ascertain if he is worth giving a decent run across formats. We don't have very many in the Indian batting line up that is a certain to walk in the playing XI. DK probably is...wish him the very best!

  • GANESSIN on April 7, 2017, 23:14 GMT

    Another thing is that MSDs great form in shorter formats closed door for DK in tests. Otherwise on merit DK > MSD when it comes to tests.

  • GANESSIN on April 7, 2017, 22:42 GMT

    Players like DK, PP, Y pathan, R Uthappa can consider themselves as extremely lucky when compared to their counterparts in the pre IPL era. Great players like V Kambli, A Bedade, H Kanitkar vanished without any proper compensation from the game. But these days players earn so much from a 6 weeks T20 tournament. They deserve it though. But they should think about those unlucky guys in the pre IPL era and consider how time is rewarding them. Think about Pujara too. He is one of the best batsman without any IPL contract. Pathetic situation for him.

  • Siddharth on April 7, 2017, 19:12 GMT

    People are looking at ODI and T20 teams but i think DK's best chance is the Test team. On those tough away tours where India want to play 5 bowlers but don't trust Ashwin at 6 DK can come instead of Saha (if his form drops right now position has to be Saha's without question)

  • Asker on April 7, 2017, 18:47 GMT

    I beleive this guy is some what unlucky to have played during the time we had wicket keeper like MSD who happend to be a good batsman and a captain too. But this is not a unique situation in India, we have had damn good keepers like Kirshnamurthy, kunderan, engineer, kirmani and others but everyone got their chance and who ever cashed on it survived for a long time, so not to worry DK you will get chance again and do not drop that otherwise like waugh said people will say you have dropped your chance mate. situation now Pant, Kishan, samson can wait for some more time to establish themselves and will definitely get a chance. Naman ojha i dont think is upto the mark both in wicket keeping and batting so he should be out of consideration by the management. Only PP and DK and WS should be in consideration for now. Batting wise DK, PP and WS. Wicketkeeping wise DK,WS,PP. If management can use this matrics and decide who should be preferred or rotate them at least. MSD should call it quits

  •   K.V. Rajagopal on April 7, 2017, 18:15 GMT

    Nice article by Deivarayan Muthu. He has analysed all aspects of Dinesh Karthik and his candid questions were a treat. Karthik on his part answered faithfully and in all earnestness. In this form, Dinesh Karthik will be on the frame of selectors for Champions' trophy. The most satisfying part is DK said he would like to play in all the formats as a batsman which shows his mental strength and belief in himself. He is striking well at the moment and there is no doubt in one's mind that Karthik if given the nod, will repose the confidence trusted on him.

  • Alex on April 7, 2017, 17:27 GMT

    DK is an all round player. Excellant batting skill. It was always concentration problem that got him out. He never was physically strong. I mean stamina wise. That contributed to his failures. You need to consider crease as home and should not try to think anything else. That is your sofa couch. That means he needs stamina to stay and buy time against good bowlers. he is better than PP any day. I think he will do well t20 games. He can be tried only overseas non asian Test matches only.

  • raj on April 7, 2017, 16:18 GMT

    DK Has to be to in in Champions Trophy! Raina is as pathetic , can't even run these days. Ishanth seems much better slogger than Raina. Should be dropped at all costs.

  • Anil on April 7, 2017, 13:45 GMT

    This is the problem, DK, that you still "aim to play all three formats". At this age and after so much experience, you should have cemented your spots, and be planning for your retirement now, not "aiming to play formats". We fans understand your situation, though. You unfortunately ran into that keeper-batsman called MSD, who blocked any foreseeable path for any keeper. Especially when you were the incumbent at the time of MSD's debut. But, again, hard luck is hard luck, and it happened to almost all your fans; but you would admit that you have not grabbed your chances when it came your way. All that you can do now is play as well as you can, and enjoy. Not everyone is born to land on the moon. I once hiked a little hill about 100 meters tall. That was my Mt Everest. You have achieved a million times greater things than your fans have. Enjoy your life, mate!

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