In 2004 when he was touring Zimbabwe with the India A squad, coach Sandeep Patil received a call from the chairman of selectors Syed Kirmani asking him to suggest who between Dinesh Karthik or MS Dhoni should be picked as Parthiv Patel’s replacement for the Champions Trophy in England.
Parthiv, still in his teens then, was ruled out with an injury while Dhoni wasn’t the first choice ‘keeper in the India ‘A’ playing XI. Having watched the stylish Karthik play some blazing innings on tour and back at home, Patil was clear whose name he would put forward.
“I called Dinesh in the hotel room in Harare that evening, and told him: ‘I got a call (from the selectors), and I’ve suggested your name. I wished him all the best. After that, I called Dhoni too to my room, and explained to him that why did I suggest Karthik’s name, and not his. I told him that his turn would come too, and that he will get his chance. I told him that as a coach, it’s my duty to tell you that the reason being sending Karthik is that he’s scored a hundred, and he was keeping wickets, whereas he hadn’t played. Dhoni came into the limelight after Dinesh left, and we went to Kenya, where he blasted everyone,” said Patil who has also served as the chairman of selectors in recent times.
Karthik went on to make his debut only to make way for Dhoni a year later.
“He was a different Karthik back then. It happens to a lot of players, that when they get a call to play for the Indian team, they suddenly feel that they need to play straight. They tend to forget their original style. They think that this is international cricket…they’re representing India. Karthik cut down his flair, which was his USP and then he went to personal problems which didn’t help,” says Patil.
“The biggest fear for young players is that if I play a shot, I’ll get out. That fear wasn’t there in Dinesh while playing in the Ranji Trophy and for India A. On that Zimbabwe tour he hit a brilliant hundred. I’d also watched his 160-odd innings against Mumbai also at the Wankhede Stadium (in 2004). I was really impressed by him. Luckily, Mahi (Dhoni) was also on that Zimbabwe tour.”
“Dinesh seems to have settled shown…and he has provided the team management and the selectors a reliable option. The performance in a final will definitely do a lot for Karthik,” said Patil.
“That said, I will still go with Dhoni. Unfortunately in the ICC events, 17 or 18 players can’t be picked. I want Dhoni to play in 2019 WC, his fitness is fabulous, his exploits have gone down a bit but it happens with every cricketer. The experience he has…he can still deliver under pressure because the pressure during a World Cup is completely different and Dhoni has been.”