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The Rediff Special/Bharat Reddy
'Dinesh fits perfectly in the No 7 slot'
August 12, 2004
Bharat Reddy, the only other wicketkeeper from Tamil Nadu to ever make it to the Indian team, spotted Dinesh Kaarthik and took him on a tour of England when he was just 13.
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Since then, Reddy has been working on improving the teenager's wicketkeeping skills.
Dinesh Kaarthik's mother describes you as her son's mentor.
I don't know whether you can call me his mentor. What I did was, around five years ago I had taken him with me in a team of youngsters to England. He had just entered the teens and, yes, I must say, I saw something in him. He had confidence in him, and I knew he had a future in cricket.
I had taken 17, 18 boys who were really good. One of the players was [Laxmipathi] Balaji, who is playing for India now. All the others are playing for the state. It was really a good tour.
What did you see in Dinesh? Was it his ability to keep wickets or batting?
It was not wicketkeeping. He was too small at that time to impress anyone with wicketkeeping. But his ability to bat impressed me, and in these last few years he has developed into a very good batsman. When I say good, I mean he can get into any team as a batsman itself. He has that kind of talent in him as a batsman. And that is what India is looking for right now; India needs a wicketkeeper-batsman. You will very soon see what he is made of.
Were you expecting his selection, or did it come as a surprise to you?
I knew it was only a matter of time.
After Dinesh was selected as a wicketkeeper-batsman, [India captain Sourav] Ganguly said [Rahul] Dravid will continue to keep wickets. What do you have to say about those comments?
What I feel is, the current Indian team, with senior players like Anil Kumble, Dravid, V V S Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar and Ganguly have not seen any new, young players in action. They are commenting on something they have not seen. They do not play Ranji Trophy matches, so they have not seen Dinesh Kaarthik play.
Unless they see these youngsters, how can they make such statements?
They play international after international after international. I am sure when they see him play in front of them, they will change their opinion. They had a different opinion of [Virender] Sehwag also when he came first. They didn't want Sehwag. After Sehwag played in front of all these seniors they were impressed.
That is why I feel these top players must play Duleep Trophy, Ranji Trophy etc. When they don't see young blood, they will have to bank on what the selectors give them.
Is it not unfair on a young player when the captain makes such comments?
Yes. That's the captain! It is demoralising for the young boy.
How do you compare Parthiv Patel and Dinesh Kaarthik?
Batting-wise, Dinesh is yards better; keeping maybe the same.
You feel India needs a wicketkeeper who can be a specialist batsman too.
India right now needs a specialist batsman who can keep wickets too. That is what Dinesh is fitting into. At the number 7 slot they want a bowler who can bat or a wicketkeeper who can bat. I think Dinesh fits perfectly in the number 7 slot.
Having seen him from a very young age, do you feel he has the ability to be a permanent member of the team?
He should. It will be a big disappointment for me if he doesn't play regularly for India because he is that kind of a batsman. He has been performing well for the India 'A' team too. So, Sandeep [Patil] also has put in a good word. That is why he was picked.
In which area of his play should Dinesh improve?
I think he has to work on his keeping. With hard work, he will be a great wicketkeeper too. He is also a very good student, so he will pick up things very fast. He needs a bit more exposure in keeping. See, he is going to keep wickets for bowlers like Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh so he will be a bit nervous.
I still remember when I was selected for the Indian team as a school student to keep wickets for [Bhagwat] Chandrasekhar, [Bishen Singh] Bedi, [Erapalli] Prasanna, [Srinivas] Venkataraghavan. Imagine keeping for such legends straight from school!
But it is only a matter of time when Dinesh gets used to it. I think this boy will withstand that pressure.
As told to Special Contributing Correspondent Shobha Warrier