Couch Talk 114 (Play)
Host: Subash Jayaraman
Subash Jayaraman (SJ)– Hello and welcome to Couch Talk. Today’s guest is Indian cricketer Dinesh Karthik. He talks about his up-and-down career in India colors so far, getting picked by the Delhi Daredevils in the recent IPL auction, his outlook on returning to the Indian side, amongst other things. Welcome to the show, Karhtik!
Dinesh Karthik (DK)– Thank you!
SJ– First of all, congrats on attracting the second highest bid on the IPL auction. What were your initial thoughts on the auction and on your move from Mumbai back to Delhi?
DK– Thank you! There was no planning as such. I went into the auction and I went to Delhi. It feels good to go back to the old franchise.
SJ– Was there any kind of surprise that the amount that you attracted or were you expecting something along those lines?
DK– I was not expecting, I had no idea how much I would be going for. This comes as a surprise.
SJ– Let’s talk about your domestic and India career. First of all, you were with your parents in the Middle East but when you moved to Chennai as a teenager, how hard was that transition? Because, players always have this support system around them, but you had to grow on your own.
DK– It was tough because initially I was used to staying with my parents, but then I got comfortable with this and in this journey I learnt a lot and gained a lot. It taught me a lot of things, made me independent and toughened me as a cricketer.
SJ– Are there times when you think how things may have been different if you were playing in a different era or someone like MS Dhoni does not appear in the scene, your career would have appeared differently?
DK– No. i am very, very happy with the way things are. I am not someone who thinks “Oh I wish this player wasn’t there.” I always wanted to play as a batsman for Team India and I have achieved it a few times. I want to get back in the team as a batsman and do as well as I can.
SJ– You came into the team and sort of established yourself as the first choice keeper for Tamil Nadu and after you did that it was thought to be inevitable that you will be a long term solution for India behind the stumps. In fact, you debuted ahead of Dhoni in the 2004 season for India and you did that spectacular stumping of Michael Vaughan in the 2004 ODI debut. There must have been tremendous expectations not just from people around you but also from your own.
DK– I sometimes feel there are over-expectations on me, by myself. I feel I could do some things that with time I learn that I have to know a lot more things to achieve whatever I wanted to. It has been a journey for me – the whole process, to let me go off my ambitions; because it is very easy to sit down and keep thinking about it and get insecure. A better way to look at it is to take it as it comes and keep playing.
SJ– I want to go over your career. You have been in the India scene for the last 10 years now. How would you evaluate how it has gone in the last 10 years?
DK– There have been ups and down. I have played for a bit then dropped for a bit, then picked and then dropped. It has never been a case where I have played for the team for 3-4 years. That is my aim – to play, to be a regular in the team for atleast a good 3-4 years.
SJ– As you say, it was up and down. You were suddenly called to open in Newlands, Cape Town in 2007. What was that like? How prepared were you to play as an opener in the Test team?
DK– I enjoyed it. when I used to open, I used to enjoy it. i was confident, and I enjoyed it. it was a great experience for me. At the end of the day, when you are young, you just wanted to play for Team India and contribute and I was no different.
SJ– In terms of technical adjustment, what were the things that you had to do to go from the middle order to being an opener and that too in South Africa?
DK– I had to obviously play the ball late, look to play time and make sure the ball gets old. So, I stay in there for as long as I can. These are my main targets.
SJ– Then you play against Bangladesh and England. But then, towards the end of the year, you were dropped. What went on there? Were you satisfied with your output as an opener?
DK– I think always think that in a country like India where cricket is so big that the expectations are very high. It was no different for me. When you are an opener then you are under extra pressure because if you fail at the top of the innings it looks that much more bad because there are regular openers who are waiting for a game. i played a few innings and obviously international cricket is tough. I was dropped, I was probably OK with that. It is part of life and it is a part of my cricketing journey.
SJ– Are there any regrets? Because as you said it was a makeshift opener role. Did you expect any sort of longer rope given to you?
DK– No, not really. I am not really someone who thinks about the past. I don’t even remember half the things until spoken to me about it. i am pretty relaxed. I am very happy. Given a chance, I might do it all over again. I am totally fine, I am not someone who will sit in the past too much.
SJ– There is a question from a listener, Rajiv – was there any point where you were wondering about giving up wicket keeping and focus only as playing for India as a batsman?
DK– No. keeping is something that came along the way naturally and there has been times when I have done well and there have been times where I have not done well. it has always been a part of me. I enjoy keeping and it is good to have two aspects when you play the sport. Even if I add keeping and batting, it definitely helps.
SJ– As I mentioned earlier, you were dropped after that Pakistan series. But the following year, you go on to play Test matches vs Sri Lanka when Dhoni was taking a break. That Sri Lanka series was not great for you as both wicket keeper and batsman.
DK– It was probably my worst series without doubt. I didn’t get much runs with the bat and we ended up losing the series. It was a very awful series for me personally and for the team.
SJ– I am assuming there was an opportunity to cement a Test spot, as in a middle order batsman or an opener, even if Dhoni comes back. The question from the listener is – was that the most haunting failure of your career so far?
DK– Could be. Obviously, I had a couple of Test matches do well in, and I kind of didn’t do well in both Test matches but, as I said, these things could happen to any cricketer and I am not any different. You have to take it in your stride and move forward.
SJ– What do you think could be the reason for the inconsistency? Was it because you were used to a stop-gap option, and it was a no-win situation or you?
DK– I think it has got to do with the mind because sometimes I put too much pressure on myself because I will only be getting a couple of chances. That is one part of my game that I want to improve. In whatever chances that I am given, I want to make the best of them and I expect myself to be as best as I can rather than thinking that I am only going to get a couple of games. It is a mindset change that I require.
SJ– As you just mentioned, you are going to get a couple of opportunities and you put a lot of pressure on yourself. That is what I was saying – it is a no-win situation. Even if you have done really well, perhaps you were just keeping the seat warm for Dhoni. If you didn’t do well, as it happened, people would be like “Karthik had to be dropped.” How do you approach such situations?
DK– Another way to look at it is that if I played a couple of games and if I get a hundred, from there on I can take a place in the side as a batsman. That is a probability, but I didn’t do that. I shouldn’t be complaining.
SJ– That’s pragmatic. I want to talk a little bit about the Greg Chappell as Indian coach era. There were many good results for India under his coaching, but it all ended spectacularly bad in the 2007 World Cup. What was it like to be a part of that set-up, at that time?
DK– I basically was much junior, I don’t know what was going on much. We played one bad game against Bangladesh and that put us under a lot of pressure against Sri Lanka and we ended up losing. It was a very poor series. If you take the practice matches, we started off very well, but that was a World Cup everyone will like to forget.
SJ– In the entire 2-3 years that he was coach, as I said, India had some spectacular results. India had a 15-match ODI winning streak and there were away series wins. Within the team, as a player, did you have freedom to perform or did you have feeling of insecurity/instability?
DK– I wasn’t there for much of that period. i was just there during the World Cup, so I won’t be able to answer the question thoroughly. It is better you ask someone who had been in the two-three year period. i came towards the end of it and as soon as the World Cup finished, he left and things changed after that.
SJ– I think he mentioned that he had said really nice things about you and that you were a possibility of being the future captain as well.
DK– That is right. Just before the World Cup.
SJ– Did you entertain an ambition like that, that you will become a captain some day?
DK– Yeah. It is really good to know that somebody thinks that you are a potential captain material. But, it was a long way off for me. First thing I needed to do was to be consistent, and the rest of them will follow. I haven’t done that, I wasn’t thinking about being the Indian team captain.
SJ– If you get selected, is there a place that you prefer in the batting order in the Indian batting order?
DK– I am comfortable at 3-4-5. I have been someone who likes to bat at the top of the order, I am comfortable there.
SJ– Do you think you have been given enough opportunities to show what you can do by the Indian team selectors?
DK– That is a very debatable question. Nobody, no matter how many runs you get it doesn’t feel enough. and then there are times they feel a lot. These are debatable questions. I don’t look back too back at this stage, I look to keep going forward and I do the best I can. I genuinely believe that if you don’t think about these things too much they will keep you in a good state.
SJ– When you look at the numbers, you are still 4 years younger than Dhoni. You are 28, he is 32. So far, his body has been durable, he has been able to do the double duty of wicket keeping and captaincy. But everyone has a breaking point. Do you still think there is a realistic chance of Dinesh Karthik being the first choice wicket keeper?
DK– Definitely. Obviously, I genuinely believe that if I can bat well and contribute to the team, given the opportunity I will do well for the team. I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be a part of the team.
SJ– There was a period when you were the first choice wicket keeper, and then you were the first choice as the second wicket keeper. And then recently, Wriddhiman Saha has gone ahead of you, especially in the Test squad. Where do you see yourself as with respect to the Indian national team set up.
DK– I don’t know, for me if I play a domestic season, and I score a 5-6 hundreds in 10 games then I stand a chance to come into the Indian team. That is what I am trying to achieve with my play. If I do that I will come back. Even now, I am close, I am there or thereabout. I am missing my not much, but these are things that are out of my hands and I wouldn’t like to think about it too much.
SJ– OK. Recently, you came to the Indian squad for the Champions Trophy in England and you played in the tri-series in West Indies and Zimbabwe but you were left out. What do you think went wrong in your performances?
DK– I had a very tough West Indies series, the pitches were very hard to bat on. Not many, hardly anyone made runs barring Virat (Kohli) I think. Not many got runs. It was tough wicket to bat on. 200-220 kind low scoring games. Not many were able to get starts and make runs. I didn’t do well there, and so that gave room for me to get dropped.
SJ– Last question. What is your outlook here on now? You’ve played for 10 years in the national set-up. You may have another 10 years to look forward to now, I suppose? Where do you see yourself growing as a cricketer, going further ahead?
DK– For a start, I would love to come back into the team. That’s been my ultimate goal in life. i wanted it a touch too much, so I have to relax a bit. Not too much ambitions or goals that I keep setting myself. I keep riding the wave and keep going along as and how times goes.
SJ– Alright! Thanks a lot for being on the show, Karthik! It was an absolute pleasure having you on!
DK– Thank you so much.
SJ– And, congrats on the IPL bid. Hope you do well in Delhi!
DK– OK. Thank you!
Episode transcribed by: Bharathram Pattabiraman