Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Karthik perspective: choosing the second way, all the way

Imagine yourself preparing to sit out the final decisive Test match of an open series and then being told on the last day to prepare to pad up in place of the injured 1st choice keeper. You would be taken aback by the development. The 1st way of reacting to it – the easier way, that is - would be a spontaneous complaint of not getting enough time. But perhaps you are different. You take the surprise in your stride as a good tiding and look forward to this unexpected outing on the morrow.

You are aware that you rank amongst the best keepers in your land. That would give you some confidence, as would the knowledge that people would automatically expect less batting from your avatar as the new no.7.

Now comes the testing part: you are told that you may have to open with the bat if your team gets to bat first. This was more than you ever bargained for. Once again there is more than one way of looking at that.
You could either perceive that arrangement as a way to find a scapegoat in order to accommodate and shield a struggling opening batsman down the order; or you could react the second way - spot the best chance you ever had to show your calibre and to play an unforgettable cameo role in a golden chapter in your country’s cricketing history that may just get scripted on the back of your success in this new role.

Wait, there’s a third way. You simply close your eyes, say a curt ‘yes’, and start praying like a madman that your team gets to bats second (that more or less eliminates the possibility of your getting an opening role with the bat unless your skipper has sinister plans of dehydrating you to death).

You take a deep breath. You are incapable of seeing things in any but the second way inspite of your moderate performances since landing in this continent. You nod and smile.

Your skipper wins the toss, comes back into the dressing room and puts his thumb up at you with a wink. You pad up for a strange future you never prepared yourself for.

Imagine how fulfilling it must be
when you come back quite a few hours later after providing a do-or-die opening partnership that was not just the best your team has managed on this tour but also started getting close to your team’s last innings aggregate!

You hardly care that even this effort of yours will never get even half the newspaper footage as your ex-skipper’s inspirational return managed. For you did all this even after being virtually certain of sitting out the next Test match your side will play quite a few months later as the first choice keeper will be back in business well before that.

If you are Dinesh Karthik of India then you did all that for the team. Little gems like today's effort of his often help rewriting a bit of sporting history. Reminds me of another honest trier.
Sanjay Bangar did it for his team (opening in daunting circumstances, that is) at Headingley 2002 to trigger off an unprecedented 2 years when India hardly put a foot wrong even after leaving their shores. [For the record, India won that Headingley Test by an innings.]

Bangar was not there in Australia 2003-04, Pakistan 2004 or even World Cup 2003 (which was not too distantly separated in time from Headingley). By the looks of it, young Dinesh Karthik too is destined to have an in-and-out stint with the national side owing to the towering Dhoni. It makes his job of keeping focus tougher – like Damien Martyn’s was before he sealed a place in the Australian middle order.

But now we know that as long as he is not given a raw deal Dinesh Karthik will not be complaining about or backing off from his destiny. We have been getting glimpses of his temperament over this tour; we saw a whole lot more of it here in the past 24 hours.
There’s some reassurance for the future of Indian cricket in that the temperament is quite the same as what we thought it to be when he accompanied Dravid in a critical second innings partnership in the Eden Gardens win against Pakistan in early 2005 - and quite the opposite of what some of us thought when he called wrongly and apparently turned his back to run Kaif out in one of the recent one-dayers!

No comments: