CHENNAI: With Mahendra Singh Dhoni retiring from Tests and hinting he may relieve himself of duties from shorter versions sooner than later, the door to national reckoning has been pushed wide open for wicket-keepers in the country. Former Tamil Nadu skipper Dinesh Karthik, who has struck two hundreds so far in this Ranji season, is surely one among the contenders.
For almost a decade, Dhoni held the show in all the formats, with only an injury or rest giving an opportunity for the rest. There was a time when Karthik was the first-choice keeper in Tests and Dhoni in ODIs. But the latter’s unbeaten 183 in an ODI against Sri Lanka in 2005 titled the scale in his favour. In the Test series that followed, Dhoni was handed out his maiden Test cap, and the rest as they say is history. “Dinesh was good but after that innings (by Dhoni), we couldn’t ignore him anymore in Tests,’’ said Kiran More, who was then the chief selector.
But Dhoni’s retirement has served as intimation notice to the likes of Karthik, Naman Ojha and Parthiv Patel. Agreed Karthik: “His retirement is an opportunity for us to perform and stake a claim in the national squad. I am working hard on my game both batting and keeping. I keep trying to improve with every game and I am sure my time will come.’’
Dinesh had barren run with the bat last year. His keeping was at best modest. But this year, he has forged a resounding comeback. “There were some technical issues with my batting. I have worked on that and now I am batting better than the previous year,’’ he explained. The match-saving hundred against Bengal in Eden Gardens was special. “It was a crucial innings. Luckily, it came when the team needed it most. I would like to go out and just contribute for the team,” he said.
This season, however, he has been sharing the keeping duties with Umashankar Sushil. “That’s not a big issue. It is not sharing. It is just for team combination that I am not keeping. Since he is a specialist keeper and cannot field at any other position, I am not keeping. It is just a temporary move,’’ he elaborated.
He, though, feels he has to sustain his intensity throughout the day. “There aren’t many issues. I think I need to be more alert towards the end of the day. I am putting in long hours and I am sure I will get over this,’’ said Karthik.
To fine-tune his keeping, he had sought the help of former wicket keeper Samir Dighe. “I also work with M Sanjay, who is Tamil Nadu’s assistant coach. That has helped a lot,” he signed off.