Having captivated fans of all ilk through spectacular exploits at the death in his second homecoming for RCB, Dinesh Karthik can expect a rapturous reception from his ‘home’ audience when India take on South Africa in the T20I series-deciding clash tonight
Dinesh Karthik en route his 55 against South Africa in the fourth T20I at Rajkot. Pic/PTI
Dinesh Karthik has attained cult status across India over the last two-and-a-half months. His spectacular exploits at the death in his second coming at Royal Challenges Bangalore captivated fans of all ilk and chants of ‘DK, DK’ resonated across stadiums in Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata and Ahmedabad as RCB made it to Qualifier 2 of IPL-15.
Such was the weight, in every sense of the word, of his runs that he broke open the doors to the Indian team, making an international comeback nearly three years after his last game, at the 2019 World Cup in England.
After a middling start to his latest stint, vintage Karthik resurfaced in Rajkot on Friday night, blazing to a 27-ball 55 on the back of which India completed a commanding victory to level the five-match T20I series against South Africa 2-2.
Unsurprisingly, Karthik will be the cynosure during the series-decider at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Sunday.
In his earlier dalliance with RCB in 2015, Karthik had flattered to deceive; he can, though, expect a rapturous reception from his ‘home’ audience this time around in what will be the spectators’ first sighting of the ‘local’ lad since he renewed his association with RCB.
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Karthik’s remarkable resurgence could have significant ramifications from the Indian team’s point of view. All the bilateral T20Is between now and the World Cup in Australia in October-November are an exercise in arriving at India’s best combination for the mega event, and the 37-year-old is rapidly making it difficult for the national selectors to overlook his credentials.
That he is very much on the radar, if not a shoo-in for Australia, was further emphasised by him being named the designated wicketkeeper for a two-match series in Ireland later this month in a squad that also includes Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson.
It may not be a huge exaggeration to say that Karthik’s looming presence has cast a shadow on Rishabh Pant, India’s skipper this series in the absence of the rested Rohit Sharma and the injured KL Rahul.
Pant has only made 57 runs (54 balls) in four innings; more worryingly, he has been dismissed by similar deliveries, full and well outside off. His propensity to go with the hands alone rather than feet too has resulted in three catches in the deep and one to short third-man, modes of dismissal irksome for the batsman’s inability to rectify mistakes.
Having bounced back from 0-2 down with two compelling all-round displays, India might feel the momentum is with them, but South Africa won’t just roll over.
They have never lost a T20I series in India, while India’s last loss in a home series came in 2018. Weather permitting, one of those streaks will be arrested on Sunday.